- Victor Wembanyama is considered a generational star and likely the first pick in the 2023 NBA draft.
- Former NBA star Tony Parker told Insider it was important for the 18-year-old French big man to manage expectations.
- Parker knows Wembanyama personally and said he believes the youngster is destined for stardom.
Few players entered the NBA with higher expectations than Victor Wembanyama.
Wembanyama, an 18-year-old French professional basketball player, has already been labeled a generational prospect. At 7-foot-4, with an 8-foot wingspan, Wembanyama is a fluid athlete who handles the ball like a guard, shoots three times, finishes with power and grace near the basket and protects the rim with stunning ease on defense.
He’s been called the most high-profile and exciting prospect since LeBron James in 2002 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the late 1960s — noble endeavour.
With such expectations comes great pressure, of course – if Wembanyama is less than great, some will be disappointed.
Speaking to Insider in October to promote his wine brands, former NBA All-Star Tony Parker — who knows Wembanyama well — said it’s important Wembanyama doesn’t fall victim to the hype.
“My advice for him is to make sure he has his own expectations,” Parker said. “Because it’s impossible to please everyone. Everyone is going to think, ‘Oh, you should play like that’ or ‘You should be Kevin Durant’ or ‘You should be this, you should be that. Just be yourself and have your own expectations.”
Parker, who was born in Belgium and raised in France, is admittedly a bit nervous about the huge expectations set for Wembanyama.
“I’m still worried now because people [are] put it so high, you know? … Like, I know he’s saying he’s ready and, ‘I’m ready to take it all on.’ But people, when they put you so high like that and compare him to LeBron and Michael Jordan, it’s almost unfair, you know?
Parker laughed, adding, “I’m like, wow, good luck with that. It’s gonna be tough.”
That said, Parker is a firm believer in Wembanyama’s talent. Wembanyama spent the 2021 season with French Pro A side ASVEL, of which Parker is co-owner and chairman.
However, Wembanyama was on Parker’s radar for years before that. Parker told Insider that fellow French NBA player Nic Batum sent Parker a highlight video of Wembanyama when the big man was just 13 or 14 years old.
“[Batum] was like, ‘Man, we have to follow him. He’s going to be the next big thing,” Parker recalled.
Years later, Wembanyama was playing with Parker’s team. However, injury kept Wembanyama out of the playoffs and he opted out of his contract this offseason.
Parker said beyond managing expectations, health will be the most important factor for the 18-year-old.
Wembanyama did nothing to slow the hype train. In October, the Metropolitans 92 team from Wembanyama played the G League Ignite in an exhibition showcase. Although Wembanyama’s team lost, he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks, drawing rave reviews from scouts along the way.
He continued to make big numbers during the Metropolitans season, recently scoring 36 points to go with 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in a Dec. 2 win over Fos-sur-mer.
“He’s super talented,” Parker said. “I think he’s going to be special.”
And should Wembanyama need advice?
“He knows he can call me anytime,” Parker said.