For a number of different reasons, one the NBA players presumptive No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, Victor Wembanyama, has been compared to is former Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert.
On Thursday afternoon, the stars aligned for Gobert to see Wembanyama, his fellow French countryman, in action against presumptive No. 2 pick Scoot Henderson in the second game of their much-hyped exhibition series this week near Las Vegas.
It just so happened that Gobert and his new team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, had an exhibition game of their own Thursday night in Las Vegas against the Los Angeles Lakers, so he and some of his teammates sat courtside to watch Wembanyama and Henderson.
During the third quarter of the game, Gobert was interviewed on the ESPN broadcast, and naturally much of the discussion was about the 18-year-old Wembanyama, whom Gobert knows well and shares an agent with (Bouna Ndiaye).
Speaking of the basketball talent in France, Gobert said, “Obviously we’ve never seen anything like Victor.”
Gobert said he’s known the 7-foot-3 Wembanyama since the phenom was 13 years old.
“Obviously we knew he was going to be really, really tall, but I think what I really love about the kid is that he loves the game and he’s very mature,” Gobert said.
“He’s very mature. He knows where he wants to go and he’s very confident, but at the same time very humble, and I think to me that’s really what separates him from (potentially) being a really good player to being an all-time great.”
Gobert said he has advised Wembanyama to just enjoy the process as he gets ready to make the move to the NBA next summer (as he was saying that, Wembanyama inadvertently kicked the ball in Gobert’s direction).
“He’s a student of the game,” Gobert said. “He wants to learn. He wants to learn about ... every little thing — about defense, about little details about screening. I knew early that he was going to be something special.”
Gobert said he doesn’t think there’s “any comparisons” to Wembanyama and any player that has ever played in the NBA.
“I think he wants to be unique,” Gobert said. “He knows that he can be in a league of his own, and he’s learning.”
Gobert said there’s a “high probability” he and Wembanyama will team up in the frontcourt for France at the Summer Olympics in 2024, which will be in Paris.
“Just a great kid, man,” Gobert said of Wembanyama. “It’s a pleasure for me to see the world getting to discover him because he’s working really hard and he’s a great person.”
After Wembanyama’s game, he and Gobert posed for a photo, and it went viral on Twitter due to Wembanyama being taller than his elder statesman, even as Gobert is known to be a behemoth.
“I feel good. I feel small,” Gobert could be heard saying.
Here is some of the reaction to the photo.