Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Wembanyama shines in the City of Angels

Wembanyama becomes the youngest player to record 5×5
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LOS ANGELES – To no one’s surprise, LeBron James was the biggest star on Friday evening when the Lakers hosted the Spurs in their first home game back from the All-Star break. Fans waited alongside Los Angeles’ tunnel for the NBA’s all-time leading scorer to come to the court and erupted when the kid from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School’s name was called in the starting lineup.

But after James, the fans in Arena were waiting for another spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime great to hit the court. And it wasn’t another player from the Lakers, or the many celebrities in the arena –– including NLE Choppa wearing an unbuttoned, no doubt very expensive shirt showing off his eye-popping jewelry. 

It was the 7-foot-3 center, who in warm-ups, was dribbling the ball as if he were a point guard and shooting three after three after three as if he were a shooting guard.

Victor Wembanyama made his first trip back to Los Angeles since the Oct. 29 matchup against the Clippers, when San Antonio lost its second game of the season alongside an 11-point performance from the Frenchman. Unfortunately for the team, the Spurs have lost 44 games since then, including Friday’s 123-188 loss to the Purple and Gold. Though for Wembanyama, he had quite the second appearance. 

The rookie sensation became the 15th player in league history to record 5-plus in each of the points, rebound, assist, steal and block columns, totaling 27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and five blocks. Wembanyama is the first player to record the 5×5 since Jan. 1, 2019, when Jusuf Nurkić did it in under 31 minutes, the fastest in history. 

The record performance came nearly one night earlier when the Spurs lost 127-122 to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. Wembanyama finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, five blocks and four assists, becoming just the second player in league history to record five blocks and five steals in back-to-back nights. The first was Michael Jordan in 1987.

What was Wemby’s response when hearing of his feat?

“I wonder if he did it in wins and not losses,” he said. “To me, it’s secondary. Hopefully, in the future we can look back and think this is a good performance. But as of today, I can’t be satisfied with a loss.”

Despite being 20 years old, Wembanyama hasn’t wavered in front of the bright lights, even in the City of Angels on the same court as, who many people consider, the greatest basketball player ever. The stat columns fill every night, with Wemby currently averaging 20.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and a league-leading 3.2 blocks per game. The last player to average 20/10/3 was Hall-of-Famer and former Laker Shaquille O’Neil in 1999-2000. If Wemby can keep this up for the remaining 25 games, he’ll be the 10th player ever to do so in a season.

But if most of the remaining games come in losses, Wembanyama won’t bat an eye.

That’s a good thing to hear if you’re coach Gregg Popovich, who has connected quite well with the rookie. The oldest coach in NBA history and the player who isn’t even old enough to buy alcohol may seem like the wrong match, but the two have created quite the connection. 

To Pop, the secret has been the humor.

“For me, it’s always been if somebody has a sense of humor, it’s going to be an easier relationship establish,” Popovich said. “If somebody’s not defensive, if somebody has already gotten over themselves, it’s going to be a lot easier to have a relationship. So far, that’s the case, so I’m enjoying him very much. I hope he’s enjoying me.”

To thrive in the San Antonio culture, one must leave their ego at the door, which is something Wembanyama did as soon as he heard his name selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft last June and has been evident throughout the season. No matter the final stat line or the jaw-dropping plays, all the rookie cares about is the wins and losses, even if it comes to finishing the night in Los Angeles with one of the most impressive games ever.

“When I say intelligent, I should probably say more so emotional intelligence for a 20-year-old,” Popovich said. “His maturity level understanding of what it’s going to take, all the hype that’s around him, how to handle it. I’m going to critique him about doing certain things. How does he handle those things, how does he work with his teammates, all that is a plus.

“If the leader in your program –– as far as the future goes and that sort of thing –– has those attributes, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Luckily for Spurs fans, the attention and stardom isn’t getting to him –– it’s the losses.

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About the Contributor
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.

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