Assistant GM says LeBron James didn’t get as much hype as Victor Wembanyama coming into NBA

Mike Battaglino
3 Min Read

Victor Wembanyama is entering the NBA with a level of expectation perhaps even greater than LeBron James’ arrival 20 years ago, but one league executive reportedly believes that the San Antonio Spurs rookie is “built for” the incredible attention.

“It wasn’t any one thing he did, it was his overall skill set that impressed me,” a Western Conference assistant GM told Fox Sports. “The only fear is that there’s so much hype around him — how can he live up to it? LeBron didn’t get this much hype coming out. But Victor seems built for it.”

James’ rookie season of 2003-04 with the Cleveland Cavaliers launched an extraordinarily successful NBA career that is still going strong. The 38-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star has never shied away from the vast attention, going all the way back to his high school days to “The Decision” television special to his announcement of coming back to play his 21st NBA season at the ESPY Awards just this week.

Whether Wembanyama will crave the spotlight in that manner will sort itself out over time. The executive was speaking after watching the 19-year-old play at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he had an up-and-down introduction, opening with a 2-for-13 shooting game before scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in his second outing. The Spurs then shut him down for the remainder of play there.

As if he wasn’t being scrutinized enough on the court, Wembanyama also made headlines after his security team had an encounter with Britney Spears while entering a restaurant.

It’s that kind of interest in all things Wemby that could be worrisome. But the native of France seems to have landed with the right organization, with the Spurs able to draw on a long history of success operating outside of a major media market such as New York or Los Angeles.

His on-court performance will ultimately determine where he fits in the sporting universe and if the incredible anticipation is warranted. Many people believe it will be, with TNT analyst Kenny Smith predicting an MVP award in the near future and another NBA executive forecasting him to be a top 10 player even if he falls short of the mammoth expectations.

San Antonio is likely to handle Wembanyama’s early career carefully, focusing on his playing time and physical development. There’s no doubt that whatever he does will be watched closely by fans trying to see what all the excitement is about.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. He remembers the birth of "Showtime" and has always admired the star power the Lakers have brought to the game.