After a stellar rookie NBA season, Victor Wembanyama spoke to a collection of French media including Eurosport about what he has made of his first year in the NBA that certainly had its ups and downs. He spoke about San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, as well as looking ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in 2024 which will take place in his home city of Paris.


SAN ANTONIO, TX – APRIL 12: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets greetes Victor Wembanyama #1 of the San Antonio Spurs after the game on April 12, 2024 at the Frost Bank Center in San Antonio, Texas.

This interview was conducted in French by Théo Quintard for Eurosport France. It has been adapted for TNT Sports UK by Pete Sharland. This interview is presented in a Q&A format.

You seem to have exceeded expectations for your first season in the NBA. Do you share this opinion?

Victor Wembanyama: Not really. That may be the case but that’s not how I feel. Every day I try to surpass myself, set new records, win more games. But the next day, I always tell myself that I didn’t do enough, to try and push myself even more. I would have liked to play all the matches and not miss any but I agree with the way we managed [the workload] the season. For a first season, it’s satisfactory.

So has your first NBA season met your expectations?

VW: Yes, overall it was in line with my expectations. I have never had any doubts about my ability to perform because I am the person who knows myself the best. I know the work that has been done so there is no reason to worry.

What are your proudest moments of the season?

VW: There are several. One of them is my unique stat lines, especially in wins. Producing performances that have never been done before is one of them. There is also being the best rookie in most statistical categories and the best blocker in the league (3.6 blocks per game).

What is the most important thing you learned this season?

VW: I was taught many things, more than I could name. But I was taught a lot about physicality, development and health. I also learned a lot from the great players in the league and their consistency, whether from (Joel) Embiid, (Nikola) Jokic or Giannis (Antetokounmpo). They are present at every match throughout the season and rarely have bad evenings. They don’t just shine occasionally because that’s not enough.

How was your first season under the leadership of [San Antonio coach] Gregg Popovich?

VW: What stood out to me was how much he cares about his players. He considers the people we are first, before the player. This didn’t surprise me that much, because he told me from day one, or even before. In many cases, whether in the NBA or elsewhere, the relationship between coaches and players is far from perfect so I’m happy that things are going well here.

The Spurs have had a series of defeats, sometimes significant. How did you experience these tough moments?

VW: There was a moment when it was quite hard to lose all these games and to go back the next day or two days later and have to fight again in another game (laughs). It was hard but I am surrounded by a great team and there were no moments where I broke down. The season was mentally taxing but if it hadn’t been, it would mean that I wouldn’t have pushed myself hard enough. So I really try to push myself as much as possible. But it’s definitely to be expected that it’s physically and mentally tiring. That’s why you have to give everything during the season and then rest because you’ll deserve it.

You are in the race with your compatriot Rudy Gobert (Minnesota) for the title of defender of the year. Do you think you deserve it?

VW: We’ll see. It would be far from a steal if Rudy got it but I think a lot has changed since the start of the season. Whatever the result, it will still be a great fight. What satisfies me the most is to have two French people at the top of the ranking.

And what about the rookie of the year title?

VW: The results will tell but I have no regrets about that. It was a goal but not the primary goal of my season. Above all, I wanted to help the team improve and grow. I know very well that the best way to help the team is to perform well individually.

You have delighted fans with numerous highlights which have made the rounds on social media. Is this something you value?

VW: I like it, yes. For me, highlights are like art, like dance. During warm-ups, I always try to try new dunks, new techniques and sometimes even actions that I didn’t think I would be able to do. It’s truly a universe to explore.

Did you realize that your new status as an NBA star went beyond just basketball?

VW: Of course. But in my private life, I am absolutely disconnected from all that, I don’t consider myself a star. But what struck me during each of my outings is the impact that we can have as a player on many people, on young people.

How does it feel to have been followed by three French journalists all year round?

VW: I don’t have to say anything (laughs). I already appreciate that France is putting so many resources into growing basketball and supporting my career. I tend to slightly overestimate the power of the media in the United States and underestimate that of the media in France because they are two totally different worlds. Being far away, it’s difficult to see the impact we can have.

Exactly, what does France think of you, in your opinion?

VW: Maybe I’m wrong but I have the feeling that my performances remain mainly in the basketball sphere and that unlike in the United States, the general public is not too interested in it. But I think I don’t realise the greatness of my performances in France.

After a full season in the NBA, do you miss France?

VW: Yes, I’ve been looking forward to going back for some time now. I’m going to go see my grandparents who I haven’t seen since I left for the United States. I’m also going to meet my sister (Eve, French 3×3 international) and my brother (Oscar, resident of the Asvel training centre), I would like to go see some of their matches. I also miss the food. I’ll go eat Greek, maybe? That wouldn’t be bad (laughs).

In terms of your peak, how far along on your journey do you feel you are?

VW: It’s hard to say. I would say I’m currently at 15% of my capacity, between my first NBA game and what I hope will be my “prime”.

You often talk about your love for basketball. How much did this help you during the season, when faced with difficulties?

VW: Before 95% of matches, I try to realise how lucky I am to be on the floor. Sometimes it’s very difficult because the match will start right away and I’m extremely tired. I tell myself that I played one yesterday, another three days ago and I will play another tomorrow. But every time, I try to remember how lucky I am to be on the field. It is my destiny, in quotes. It is these strong inner reasons that push me to continue, because sometimes it is very hard.

The 100 Days To Go milestone before the Paris Olympic Games will soon be reached, does this inspire you?

VW: It’s going to be huge. When I’m on the court, I’ll give 200%, as I do every time I wear this jersey. It will be extraordinary and I will be there, like a child, enjoying the moment.

What would a successful season look like for you next year?

VW: I definitely don’t want the next season to end so soon. I want to go as far as possible and obviously participate in the play-offs. Ideally, I would like to win every match but to win, there are a lot of little details to adjust. It’s not enough to say that we want to win a title or reach the playoffs, every day we have to add a new brick, and that’s how we will build the house.

What is your program until the Olympic Games?

VW: I’m going to stay in San Antonio for a few days for end-of-year medical tests, continue training, then I’m going to return to France. I don’t know what day yet, but it will happen very soon. Unfortunately, I will be there for less than three weeks.

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