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What makes Victor Wembanyama so special?


Basketball fans know tonight is the night. One super-stoked NBA team will get to draft Victor Wembanyama.


The San Antonio Spurs have the coveted first draft pick and, to no one's surprise, chose the 7-foot-4, 19-year-old Frenchman.

KELLY: To find out what makes this young athlete so special and so coveted, our colleague Ailsa Chang spoke with Zach Kram, who is a staff writer for The Ringer, and asked what makes him so good.

ZACH KRAM: So most good NBA players fit into, broadly speaking, one or two camps. There are shorter guards, who are really good at dribbling, really good at shooting but not as good near the basket, not as good on defense. Or there are the big guys, who are dominant near the basket, but they can't shoot as well. They can't dribble. They're not as fast. Wembanyama combines the best of both worlds. Most every other player has weaknesses or trade-offs they have to make because of their skills and size. Wembanyama has everything.

SUMMERS: The teams with the worst season records have the best chance at getting their first draft pick, and Wembanyama is so good that there were rumors of teams throwing their entire season to better their odds. Kram says for basketball, that's not that crazy.

KRAM: More than any other sport, in basketball, just one superstar can change the direction of a franchise. There are only five players on the court at a time, and the best player can get the ball as much as he wants. So would a team sacrifice one bad season for potentially 10, 15, 20 wonderful years with Wembanyama? I think that's a fair trade-off.

KELLY: Wembanyama is coming from the French league, where he led in blocks, in points and in rebounds. But the French league is not the NBA. So is he ready to compete here?

SUMMERS: Well, he's been preparing for this for a long time, says Kram, and has a whole crew of people making sure he'll be ready.

KRAM: Trainers and nutrition experts and fitness experts to really make his body ready down to, like, the narrowest body parts. He has big toe exercises that he's been doing just to make sure that his feet are strong enough to sustain an NBA workload.

KELLY: Big toe exercises. Now, that is commitment.

SUMMERS: Indeed. That was Zach Kram talking about Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 draft pick in tonight's NBA draft, who can add San Antonio Spur to his resume.


Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.