San Antonio's French connection: Victor Wembanyama set to follow in footsteps of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw
San Antonio's French connection: Victor Wembanyama set to follow in footsteps of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw
Victor Wembanyama set to become latest French star in San Antonio

Surrounded by friends and family in his hometown of Paris, France, Victor Wembanyama watched eagerly as the results of the NBA Draft Lottery were revealed on Tuesday night. 

As the presumptive top pick for months, the 19-year-old knew that whichever team won the lottery would almost certainly be where he began his NBA career.

One team after another was drawn and the options narrowed. By 2:20 a.m. Central European Time, just four teams remained on the board: Houston, Portland, Charlotte and San Antonio. 

MORE: Victor Wembanyama's family tree - Meet the French phenom's athletic parents, siblings

The Rockets received pick No. 4 and the Trail Blazers received pick No. 3, effectively taking them out of the running for Wembanyama. As basketball fans around France held their collective breath, NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum raised the penultimate card to reveal the teal and blue hues of the Hornets' logo. 

At that moment, Wembanyama knew he was virtually guaranteed to be a Spur next season. The look of excitement on his face was clear to see. 

Live from Paris… #NBADraft prospect Victor Wembanyama reacts to the #NBADraftLottery presented by State Farm!

— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2023

After training his whole life to reach the NBA, he no doubt would have been excited regardless of which team landed the top pick. But his comments shortly after the lottery revealed a desire for it to be the Spurs all along. 

"There's a special relation between France and the Spurs because of Tony [Parker] of course, and also Boris [Diaw]," Wembanyama said. "I know half of the country, if not the whole country, wanted the Spurs to have the first pick. So I was looking at everyone and everyone was happy, so I was too."

"There's a special relation between France and the Spurs. ... The whole country wanted the Spurs to have the first pick."

-Victor Wembanyama

(via @NBA)

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 17, 2023

Parker was one of France's first exports to the NBA, and he remains undoubtedly the greatest.

Between 2001 and 2018, he ran the point for the Spurs as they established one of the most successful dynasties in league history. He was a six-time All-Star, a four-time NBA champion and a one-time Finals MVP. His No. 9 was retired by the organization in 2019.

MORE: Why the Spurs are a perfect fit for Wembanyama's development

There's no doubt Wembanyama watched and idolized Parker as a kid growing up in Paris. Parker, too, spent much of his childhood in France's capital and began his career with a team called Paris Basket Racing. That team is now known as Metropolitans 92, where Wembanyama plays today. 

Parker even posted a picture on Twitter of a young Wembanyama wearing his Spurs jersey in the moments after his former team won the top pick.

Yesss he’s going to the @spurs !!! So proud of you💪🏽

— Tony Parker (@tonyparker) May 17, 2023

But the French connection in San Antonio goes even deeper. Boris Diaw spent four years there, more than any other stop in his 14-year NBA career. He was teammates with Parker during that time, and together they helped guide the Spurs to a title in 2014. He now serves as team president for Metropolitans 92, the same team where Parker and Wembanyama both spent their formative years. 

In total, five French players have played for the Spurs — including Parker and Diaw. The other three are Ian Mahinmi (2007-10), Nando de Colo (2012-14) and Joffrey Lauvergne (2017-18). San Antonio even had three French players on its playoff roster when it reached the 2013 NBA Finals. 

MORE: How Wizards, Trail Blazers came agonizingly close to landing No. 1 pick

Wembanyama will join a list of nine current players in the NBA when he enters the league, including Rudy Gobert of the Timberwolves, Nic Batum of the Clippers and Killian Hayes of the Pistons. 

In a little over a month, the lanky 19-year-old from Paris will inevitably become the latest French prospect to pull on a Spurs jersey. Only time will tell whether he can follow in the footsteps of Parker, his legendary predecessor. He certainly has big shoes to fill.

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