Rachel Nichols says Victor Wembanyama can disrupt LeBron James-Michael Jordan G.O.A.T. debate

Jesse Cinquini
4 Min Read

On Friday, fresh off San Antonio Spurs star rookie Victor Wembanyama’s 38-point performance against Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns, Rachel Nichols said that the Frenchman can disrupt the LeBron James-Michael Jordan debate about the greatest basketball player of all time.

“This ceiling of this player is so high that after the game, we talked about all of the records that he sort of either set or tied,” Nichols said. “And you’ve got names like David Robinson in his first five games, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James. Victor Wembanyama’s ceiling — I’m not predicting he’s gonna definitely get there — but his ceiling is higher than every single one of those three gentlemen. We’ve been sitting here for what, a decade, debating M.J. versus LeBron. The ceiling of Victor Wembanyama is that he could render that completely mute.”

Wembanyama shot an efficient 15-of-26 from the field for the Spurs, including 3-of-6 from outside the 3-point line. Plus, he chipped in 10 rebounds and two blocks in a game the Spurs went on to win by a final score of 132-121 to improve their record to 3-2 on the season.

The 19-year-old’s performance against the Suns isn’t his only great game of the season so far. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against Phoenix on Oct. 31 and 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 27. San Antonio also won both of those games.

The big man is averaging 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per game while converting 50.0 percent of his field-goal attempts and 32.0 percent of his 3-point attempts in five games played with the Spurs this season.

For comparison, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game during the 2003-04 season, when he was a rookie playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jordan, meanwhile, averaged 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game as a rookie with the Chicago Bulls during the 1984-85 season.

Both James and Jordan ended up earning Rookie of the Year honors for their efforts in their first years in the NBA. It’s very possible that Wembanyama will earn the same award at the end of the season, but it’s not set in stone at this point that he will.

Namely, Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is playing at a high level too. He’s averaging 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in five appearances with Oklahoma City thus far.

While Wembanyama had a spectacular all-around performance on Thursday, one superstar-caliber showing isn’t enough to definitively say that his ceiling is high enough to disrupt the GOAT debate surrounding James and Jordan.

Wembanyama will hope to replicate his production against the Suns when he and the Spurs take on the Toronto Raptors at home on Sunday.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.