The past two times the five-time NBA champions have had the top pick, they also selected big men – David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. Both had Hall of Fame careers and earned championship rings.
Unlike many players his size, Wembanyama is not a prototypical NBA center. While the 19-year-old can be dominant on defense, he is able to dribble the ball like a point guard and shoot from 3-point range efficiently.
“It’s a tough league,” Wembanyama told draft broadcaster ESPN through tears after he was selected. “I going to try to learn as quick as possible because I want to win that ring.”
Wembanyama said he had dreamed so much of hearing NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call his name, he had to cry when the moment arrived.
Wembanyama played the past three seasons in France’s LNB Pro A, the country’s highest pro level, with the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92. He led the league in scoring, rebounding, and blocks on his way to becoming the youngest regular-season MVP in Pro A history.
In 34 regular season games with Mets 92, he averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.0 blocks per game.
He’s one of the most touted teenagers to join the NBA since LeBron James was the top pick of the 2003 draft.
“Because of all the hype, he’ll have a target on his back. So more than O’s and X’s, to begin with, we’ll be interested in setting the framework in an environment where he’s comfortable where he can be Victor,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said in a news conference on expectations for Wembanyama.
“He’s not LeBron (James) or Tim (Duncan) or Kobe (Bryant) or anybody else. He’s Victor, and that’s who we want him to be.”
Then he added he looks forward to putting on the jersey for the first time. He will wear No. 1, the team said.
Wembanyama’s French league teammate Bilal Coulibaly, a 6-foot-6 forward, was chosen with the No. 7 pick by Indiana but traded to Washington. In return, Washington sent No. 8 pick Jarace Walker, a 6-foot-8 forward from the University of Houston, and two 2028 second-round picks to the Pacers.
Hornets take SEC Player of the Year
The Charlotte Hornets selected forward Brandon Miller of the University of Alabama with the second pick. As a freshman, the 6-foot-9 Miller was named the Southeastern Conference player of the Year after leading the conference in 3-pointers per game, while leading the nation as the highest-scoring freshman.
He finished the season as the first player in SEC history to win Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and all-SEC tournament honors in the same season.
According to his NBA Draft profile, Miller is “already a crafty scorer who uses his length and athleticism to get to the hoop and finish over and around defenders.” He also is comfortable shooting 3-pointers.
“I know they have great players there already. For me, I can bring just a winner,” he told reporters. “I’m willing to make all the winning plays as far as on or off the court.”
The 21-year-old Miller made headlines off the court when he was named a “cooperative witness” in a January fatal shooting near the school’s campus. Miller was not charged with a crime, and according to Alabama he was not considered a suspect.
G-League player Scoot Henderson, a 6-foot-2 guard, was the third pick, going to the Portland Trail Blazers.
“They’re getting a dog. They’re getting a dog that’s going to come in and be hungry,” he told ESPN, adding he wants to have an impact off the court. “They’re getting a special player; a special person.”
Twins go at No. 4 and No. 5
The Houston Rockets also went the non-college route, picking Amen Thompson, who played with his twin brother, Ausar, at Overtime Elite, an independent league for young players based in Atlanta.
Amen Thompson told reporters he would team with Jalen Green to give the Rockets “two very athletic guards who can push the tempo.”
“I like to be on a team with as many people who can make plays for us as possible, and I think that’s what we’ve got over there,” he added.
Ausar, a forward, didn’t wait long after his twin to be selected, as the Detroit Pistons chose him next. The 6-foot-7 brothers are the first siblings to be picked in the top five (or top 10, even) of the NBA Draft in the same year.
“I feel like we’re going to adapt (to being in different cities). It may be a little hard, but I think he’s going to be fine,” Ausar Thompson said. “I know I’m going to be fine. I’ll FaceTime him.”
Other twins taken in the first round of the same draft were Marcus and Markieff Morris in 2011 and Brook and Robin Lopez in 2008.
This year Kris Murray, a 6-foot-7 forward from the University of Iowa, was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 23rd pick. That comes one year after his twin brother, Keegan, was picked fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings.
CNN’s Ben Morse contributed to this report.