NBA Wembanyama Time

PARIS (AP) — Adieu France, hello America.

They were hugs of goodbye—not of joy—for Victor Wembanyama as he bid farewell to his teammates and the French league, before jetting off for what many predict will be a glittering NBA career.

Wembanyama's performance—22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks—couldn't prevent his Boulogne-Levallois team losing 92-85 to Monaco in a must-win Game 3 in the best-of-five French league championship series on Thursday.


To accommodate escalating interest in seeing the 19-year-old French prodigy, Game 3—and 4 if they had won—were switched from a 4,000-seat venue to Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros, home of the French Open tennis championship which seats more than 14,000.

Fans sang "Merci, Wemby" as the hugely popular Wembanyama waved and clapped at them.

"I'm sorry for the fans who love to see a show," Wembanyama said on beIN Sports television after the game. "Of course I'm proud of what I've managed to do along with my coach (Vincent Collet), in bringing the team to the finals. But I'm not satisfied."


Next week, the San Antonio Spurs are expected to make the 7-foot-3 Wembanyama the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, where he'll follow in the footsteps of France great Tony Parker and Hall of Famers David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

With Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé among the crowd — likely with an eye on Wembanyama teammate Bilal Coulibaly ahead of the draft — the Mets opened up big leads but with 50 seconds left the score was tied at 85-85. Jordan Loyd, a former NBA player with the Toronto Raptors, sank two 3-pointers to end Wembanyama's hopes of signing off with a French crown.

Ranadivé told beIN Sport that Wembanyama is "amazing" but that "I'm also excited about Bilal. Young guy, lot of skills, so French basketball is in great shape."

Wembanyama, who opened the scoring with a reverse alley-oop dunk, looked sad as he hugged his teammates while Monaco celebrated.


"Wemby had a great game, but this team's unbelievable," said Loyd, who finished with 22 points.

Everything had pointed to a special night for Wembanyama and then a Game 4 on Saturday. Wembanyama clenched his fist when his pass inside for Devante Jones made it 24-10, then drew roars when he used his giant frame to block a shot early in the second quarter.

The "Wemby, Wemby" chants became louder when he hit a 3-pointer to make it 47-37, louder still when he dished to Coulibaly for a dunk early in the third quarter.


It was not enough, though, and it was "Wemby" who put Elie Okobo on the foul line to give Monaco its first lead, 82-81, with just over three minutes left.

Loyd—not Wembanyama—ended up with the MVP award and the winners' medal on the court where Novak Djokovic made men's Grand Slam history last Sunday with his 23rd men's major title.

Wembanyama's journey to greatness in his sport, however, might only just be starting.