Victor Wembanyama Is Yet to Fully Win Charles Barkley Over
While he’s yet to arrive on North American shores, Victor Wembanyama is already garnering plenty of attention in NBA circles. The French teenager, thanks to his unique blend of size, skill, and raw talent, has been tapped as the Association’s next big star. At this point, it seems like a matter of if, rather than when, he’s taking his place in the world spotlight.
Not everyone is convinced of that surefire path to stardom, however. Charles Barkley is never shy about saying what’s on his mind, and that includes some skepticism about Wemby’s future.
Is Chuck being a hater? Or is he expressing some valid concerns? Let’s break it down.
Charles Barkley believes that Victor Wembanyama is going to have to adjust to life in the NBA
In sports, any topic, no matter how benign, can turn into a debate. That’s exactly what happened on Inside the NBA when an apparent alley-oop of a topic — Victor Wembanyama‘s potential — turned divisive. While Kenny Smith is confident in the teenager’s talent, Charles Barkley is less than convinced.
“I think it’s going to be a huge adjustment,” Chuck explained. “The physicality … I think it’s gonna be more physical than him playing against the Czech Republic [Wembanyama had just come off an international game in which he dropped 22 points while pulling down 17 rebounds and blocking six shots]. I mean, he’s gonna be playing against grown men, and he’s gonna have to guard those guys on the other end also, which [is] gonna bring him into foul trouble. It’s not gonna be, listen, I’ve been in the NBA for 40 years. I ain’t seen but one guy, one guy, who didn’t go to college who came in who was ready. And that’s LeBron. Kobe was great; he struggled early. Kevin Garnett was great; he struggled early.”
Ernie Johnson then sent another question Barkley’s way: Even if he has to adjust, will Wembanyama eventually be great? While that seemed like a more-straightforward question, Sir Charles still wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he responded. “See, this is what I hate. Jack idiots, like us … this is one of my biggest problems with people who do our job. We, like, you know, they got to debate. Why can’t we just enjoy Michael Jordan’s and LeBron’s greatness and Kobe’s and Kareem’s? Like, it’s gonna play itself out. They’re like, ‘He’s the next this, he’s the next that.’ Like, how many people did Michael Jordan kill? We’ve been for the last 40 years like, ‘Well, he is the next Michael Jordan.’ And we never had another one. We killed like [Harold] Miner, Roy Marble, like all these guys.”
With all of that being said, though, Barkley did make it clear that he doesn’t hold any ill will toward Wembanyama.
“I want to see the kid play. I hope he is great cause he’s great for our job,” Chuck added. “I can’t sit now here just because he is killing people over in the Czech Republic that he is going to come over here and dominate. I just don’t believe that.”
Chuck’s take isn’t completely unreasonable, but Wembanyama’s talent does seem to warrant special treatment
Although Barkley can certainly share some questionable takes from time to time, his position on Victor Wembanyama isn’t all that unreasonable. There are some flaws in his logic — the teenager has been playing against grown men, even if they aren’t NBA opponents — but the overarching message of patience is certainly a breath of fresh air.
With that being said, though, rules are meant to be broken, and if any prospect warrants it, Wemby could be the one. Not only is the teenager incredibly tall with an eye-popping wingspan, but he’s capable of handling the ball, shooting from the perimeter, and finishing in the paint. That all combines to make him seem like a rather perfect prospect for today’s NBA, even if it takes some time for everything to click.
Are there things that can go wrong along the way? Of course. As Barkley noted, playing an 82-game NBA season against the best talent in the world will be an adjustment. The injury bug could also rear its ugly head, especially when we’re talking about someone with such a massive body. As Greg Oden and Bill Walton showed, even the biggest talents can be blunted by a physical failure.
So, where will Victor Wembanyama land within the spectrum of NBA talent? We, just like Charles Barkley, will have to wait and see what the future holds.