Announced as a first pick for the 2023 NBA draft, Boulogne Levallois’ Victor Wimbanyama has formalized his scoring. Barely 19-years-old, the basketball world name he has already dubbed on Wemby is an extraordinary phenomenon. With his height of 2.21 m, and his talent, which should make him the first place holder in the NBA draft. In this exclusive interview, the Boulogne-Levallois Mets player, already a mainstay of the French side, displays a maturity and determination reminiscent of his footballing older brother, Kylian Mbappe. The throws are clear and the dribbles are bold… Interview by Eve Dry
You’ve been at the center of sports and media turmoil for months but you’re still zen. How do you, young man, keep calm in such circumstances?
Victor Wimbanyama: I have a personal certainty, a kind of inner strength. It’s my character.
Is there no specific training?
Volkswagen: No no. Although I was helped by a very stable environment.
Even Tony Parker, at the height of his career, didn’t experience it. The only French player who has known this madness is undoubtedly Kylian Mbappe in football. You are often compared to…
Volkswagen: I couldn’t compare with Mbappe because the football world is very different from the football world.
You are two exceptional and highly innovative talents, who are internationally recognized. The difference is that at your age he was a world champion.
Volkswagen: my age? Yes. If you become world champion this summer and Olympic champion in 2024, we can really compare.
Are you sometimes afraid of disappointment? From failing to live up to the enormous expectations you raised?
Volkswagen: It never crossed my mind. The only expectation that matters to me is my prediction. Not from the press or the public. And I know I won’t be disappointed because I have a three-year warranty that turns out to be just right.
Volkswagen: At my level of play, I expected to be where I am today.
In terms of sporting goals?
Volkswagen: I will approach next season’s NBA with a great deal of humility because I know it is yet another dimension. I prepare myself technically and psychologically, especially by watching the matches and my future opponents. I get a lot of excitement playing against Durant, Curry, LeBron, etc. I have admired them for a long time and can’t wait to meet them. Fear not, I want to go beyond my models.
It is important to become number one in the draft [la sélection des nouveaux entrants de la ligue NBA] ?
Volkswagen: Yes, of course. There is pride in being ranked first in such a ranking. It’s like winning a competition. I don’t race if I don’t have the ambition to be in first place, that’s my mood.
You’re up against a rival, Scott Henderson, a young American captain…
Volkswagen: No, I don’t have a competitor.
What do you think of the system for recruiting players in the NBA?
Volkswagen: he is fine. Because the richer clubs do not necessarily have an advantage over others. There are no transfers for huge sums, players are exchanged, and the worst-ranked clubs get access to the best in the draft, which balances out the league.
But the players have no choice…
Volkswagen: That’s right, in the beginning, we are chosen. But at the end of the first decade, we can decide to extend or leave.
What is your dream club?
Volkswagen: I don’t have. The NBA is very different from soccer. A team at the bottom of the table two years can find themselves at the top the following year. There is nothing as unchanging as in football where scores of European clubs always find themselves in the semi-finals.
In which area do you have the most room for improvement?
Volkswagen: I need to know the style of play in the NBA to answer this exact question. But what I do know is that matches are 15 minutes longer. So I have to progress in my preparation to be good during the duration of matches and more than 80 matches a year.
Volkswagen: Nothing in particular. From the beginning of my training, I learned to do it all. I have to improve in all areas of the game.
Does money mean a lot to you?
Volkswagen: honestly no. I thought a lot because I knew for a long time that I could win a lot. I don’t like the concept of money because I don’t like its effect on people and human relationships. I find it unhealthy but I have no alternative solution. However, I still wanted to have it because I didn’t want to be embarrassed by the material hassle.
Are you worried that money will spoil your relationships with your loved ones?
Volkswagen: My family will not change. For the rest, we’ll see. I imagine this kind of misadventure must have happened with a less close entourage. I can undo it.
Are you sensitive to recordings in this area? Obviously, would you like to become the highest paid French athlete in the world?
Volkswagen: I’m sure I’ll be able to come close to this record, but that’s not what motivates me. I am most interested in topics that have an impact on the world, philanthropy, education, youth…
Sorry to come back to this but we really wonder where this precociousness comes from!
Volkswagen: Since I was little, I have tried to be pragmatic and objective in my thinking. I know it’s weird but it is what it is.
Maybe it has something to do with your readings?
Volkswagen: no. I mostly read novels. Joseph Delaney, for example [un écrivain anglais qui a rencontré le succès avec la série L’Épouvanteur]. I know my tastes will change with age.
Do you follow the economy and finance in anticipation of your future profits?
Volkswagen: a little. But I want to stay away from that because I’m not as passionate about money as I told you. Today, investing, for example, is not my thing. I don’t want to deviate from my sporting goals. Those around me take precautions for me and I interfere to a minimum.
However, should you play the role of Business Manager to manage your career, marketing and communication?
Volkswagen: Yes, of course. I have to be level in all areas. When there are meetings, I participate, I listen and I decide. I like to make important decisions for my future. Some can direct my life itself.
Will your time in the NBA lead you to expand your squad?
Volkswagen: I intend to stay with people I trust and who are competent. Two points on which I am stubborn. I will keep this rule but will no doubt collaborate with new people. I am the subject of many petitions.
s Are there things you would like to see changed in French basketball?
Volkswagen: Yes, of course. Some things can and should change. In our clubs, it seems to me, a bit of professionalism is not enough to reach the European top. Teaching basketball, right from school, trains young people a lot. Our game philosophy is too physical and not technical enough. This is why, in my opinion, we always lose to Spain. When we see how they pass the ball, it has nothing to do with us. This lack explains, among other things, why I decided to stay in Nanterre and not join Insep. I didn’t want my game to be too unified by the federation. In Nanterre, I enjoyed great freedom. It took a lot of will from me not to be formatted.
What were the difficulties related to your youth basketball and outdoor basketball? taken seriously?
Volkswagen: In my sport, where performance is involved, there is respect that goes with it. It makes things easier when you are young and ambitious. For the rest, you need to know how to be patient so as not to get frustrated. We will not give everything to us right away. Me, I am a special case because I started performing at the age of 16. What struck me in high school was seeing so many guys hanging around not knowing what they were going to do with their lives. They skipped class for not doing anything. It saddened me. When I’m legit for it, I’d like to pass on my experience. It’s still a little early there.
You have a scientific baccalaureate. Are you planning to pursue an undergraduate course?
Volkswagen: At the moment, I am learning every day without going through studies. I thirst for learning. But I’m sure I’ll supplement all of that with a certificate when the time comes, especially in the field of languages.
Do you have a chance to become world champion this summer?
Volkswagen: If all goes well, I’ll be there, and of course we have a real chance!
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