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Victor Wembanyama, largely living up to expectations after 60 games with San Antonio, is well on his way to winning the trophy for best rookie, notably crushing competition from Chet Holmgren, the young Oklahoma City interior.

“You have to let Victor be Victor. But right now, he deserves a small fine for what he said,” laughs Tre Jones, referring to the comical scene that took place at the end of Thursday night’s game in San Antonio. His teammate Victor Wembanyama, dripping with sweat, grabbed the microphone at the Frost Bank Center after his team’s 132-118 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. All too happy to win and to be back in the fans’ hearts, he shouted to the crowd, “I missed that s—!”, before returning to the episode in the press conference. “Did I say a bad word? Gee, I’m not used to American mores yet.”

His infectious joy also stemmed from his XXL performance of the evening, a game he finished with 28 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocks—including a decisive last quarter against his great rival Chet Holmgren ( who scored 21). With 22 games to go in his first NBA season, “Wemby” seems to have put an end to the debate. He is making giant strides toward the title of best rookie of the year.

Despite the defeat, Chet Holmgren sought to shake hands with Victor Wembanyama at the end of the game. But the Frenchman is not one to sympathize with the enemy. Dominating the Thunder’s young interior has been a personal affair since January 4, when Holmgren was named the West’s best rookie of December (his second month in a row). “From now on, I want to make my mark every game,” the Spurs player said, adding, “At the end of the day, I’ll get what I deserve.”

The Wembanyama rocket on another planet
He kept his word with an exceptional January (averaging 24 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 3.2 blocks), also improving the Spurs’ dismal record this season (they have 5 wins in the past 14 games). In a lopsided showdown with Oklahoma City (a franchise battling for first place in the West) San Antonio took a beating against the Thunder on January 24th (140-114). Despite that defeat, Wembanyama seemed to be on a mission, crushing Holmgren at every turn in the game, as evidenced by several head-down drive attempts into his chest.

On Thursday night, for the third meeting between the two teams this season, the 20-year-old French big man did even better, earning himself his first victory over his rival. Having snatched the NBA Rookie of the Year award from him in January, he should naturally do the same in February. “Of course, individual trophies are important to me. The best way to help my team is to perform,” he commented on Thursday evening. “Victor has come an incredible way since the start of the season, on both sides of the pitch. His game has become more solid, disciplined,” sums up his coach, Gregg Popovich.

Just four months ago, we were wondering whether Chet Holmgren, Scoot Henderson (Portland), or Brandon Miller (Charlotte) could steal Victor Wembanyama’s thunder. While the last two rookies mentioned are having a respectable first year in the NBA, the Wembanyama rocket has already taken off for another planet.

The first rookie to reach 1,000 points, 150 blocks and 150 assists; the youngest player to complete a “five by five” in a game (on February 23 against the Lakers); the League’s best blocker after 60 games… The French giant has joined other “big men” who have made League history in their first season. Players like Shaquille O’Neal with Orlando in 1993, and David Robinson with the same Spurs three years earlier. “Great players put up 30 points every night. They don’t just perform a few times. I like to follow that example,” Wemby said after the win over Oklahoma City.

The mentality of a great champion was evident in his response to the question of the race for rookie of the year. “I don’t even question whether this race is over or not. There are still 22 games to go.”

This post is originally from L’Équipe