number 1 in the Draft, anything but an urance of success for Wembanyama and the Spurs


DECRYPTION – From LeBron James to Kwame Brown, there’s something to eat and drink in the list of former NBA Draft No. 1s. French basketball will have its first number…

number 1 in the Draft, anything but an urance of success for Wembanyama and the Spurs

number 1 in the Draft, anything but an urance of success for Wembanyama and the Spurs

DECRYPTION – From LeBron James to Kwame Brown, there’s something to eat and drink in the list of former NBA Draft No. 1s.

French basketball will have its first number 1 in the NBA Draft this Thursday. An honor, a privilege for Victor Wembanyama, who nobody imagines will not be chosen first by the San Antonio Spurs this Thursday (2 a.m., on beIN SPORTS), at the Barclays Center. Number 1 of the Draft, however, this is not a guarantee of success. It is already necessary to define “success”. When you have the opportunity to draw first in the Draft, you imagine seeing a future superstar land, the cornerstone of a franchise, the player capable of bringing you to the title. Just good, even very good is not enough.

However, there are only 19 former Draft number 1s in the Hall of Fame so far, and only 11 players designated MVP (best player of the season)! It’s clear: you don’t have to be selected first in the Draft to become a legend. Bill Russell (2), Michael Jordan (3), Wilt Chamberlain (territorial choice), Larry Bird (6), Stephen Curry (7) or Kobe Bryant (13) are the best examples. MVP of the Finals a few days ago with the Denver Nuggets and double MVP of the regular season, the Serbian international pivot Nikola Jokic went so far below the radar that he was taken in the second round in 2014, in 41st place!

Read alsoNBA: Victor Wembanyama, the meteoric rise of a 19-year-old giant

In summary, the exercise is inherently error-prone. These are necessarily bets on young players in the making and who have not yet been confronted at the highest level in most cases. Often, we talk about players who have only played one year in college, for those who go through the NCAA box, or who have not had time to impose themselves among the pros, for those who have just come from Europe or elsewhere. Under these conditions, it is difficult to be certain. Several of the worst flops in the history of Draft number 1s have one thing in common: they are great. This is due to the fact that the “big men” have long ruled the NBA. US recruiters have therefore often bet on centimeters wrongly and through.

LaRue Martin, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown: stock flops

Of course, size isn’t everything. The Blazers learned this at their expense, they who took the huge flop LaRue Martin with the first “pick” in 1972, when they could have put the grappling hook on Julius Erving. They did it again in 1978. Mychal Thompson is not a flop, not at all in fact. Except there was Larry Bird that year… In 1977, Milwaukee took center Kent Benson rather than Bernard King. In 1998, the Clippers bet on Michael Olowokandi, forgetting Vince Carter, Dirk Nowizki or Paul Pierce. How can we forget the horrible Kwame Brown, first choice in 2001 ahead of Pau Gasol, Tony Parker or Gilbert Arena? In recent years, Andrea Bargnani (2006, Toronto), Greg Oden (2007, Portland) or Anthony Bennett (Cleveland, 2013) have joined the club of greats who flopped, either because they were far from the expected level, either because they have been betrayed by their body, or both.

However, it’s not just the greats who failed to live up to expectations after being selected first in the Draft. On the side of Philadelphia, for example, we always have nightmares thinking back to the 2017 Draft, when the 76ers chose Markelle Fultz rather than Jaylen Brown, De’Aaron Fox or Donovan Mitchell. Boys like Andrew Wiggins (2014) or DeAndre Ayton (2018) have become solid players, not stars.Injuries have hurt Derrick Rose (2008), John Wall (2010), Elton Brand (1999). “D-Rose” is the youngest MVP in the NBA.

Olajuwon rather than Jordan?

In short, some first choices of the Draft did not meet expectations. Others did not even have the level to play permanently in the NBA! And there are those who were good, even very good, but certainly not better than those who were taken behind them. Certainly, Hakeem Olajuwon guided the Rockets to two titles (1994, 1995). He is one of the best centers in NBA history. The best ? A legend. But if it had to be done again, wouldn’t the Texas club choose to bet on Michael Jordan in this rich 1984 Draft? Obviously, it’s hard to shoot Houston. Especially since the Blazers had taken the improbable Sam Bowie in second place, ahead of “MJ”, thinking that with Clyde Drexler, they were sufficiently armed at position 2… Same scenario as Olajuwon with Allen Iverson, icon in Philadelphia, legendary, a superstar. He hoisted the 76ers to the finals and won the MVP title in 2001. Except that the year of his Draft, the franchise from Pennsylvania missed out on a local kid, a certain Kobe Bryant, gone 13th choice.

‘King James’ exceeds expectations

Cheers: there are also draft number 1s who have changed the face of their club, and even the game in general. Kareem Abdul-Jabar (1972), Magic Johnson (1979), Shaquille O’Neal (1992) or LeBron James (2003) are among them. Best scorer in the history of the League and four times champion, the latter, who at least met the immense expectations placed on him, if not more, also enjoyed a “hype” comparable to that of Victor Wembanyama before land in the NBA. And again, that was before social media. He is the last number 1 designated MVP, in 2013, his fourth coronation.

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Will “Wemby” succeed him in this area? Maybe the last number 1s could claim it in the years to come, they are still young, Zion Williamson (2019), Anthony Edwards (2020), Cade Cunningham (2021) and Paolo Banchero (2022). In the meantime, Elgin Baylor (1958), Anthony Davis (2012), Oscar Robertson (1960), Patrick Ewing (1985), Yao Ming (2002), James Worthy (1982), Chris Webber (1993), Bill Walton (1974) , Bob Lanier (1970), Kyrie Irving (2011) or Elvin Hayes (1968), they have certainly had great careers and won individual and/or collective titles.

San Antonio is not mistaken

One thing is certain: unlike the Portland Trail Blazers or the LA Clippers to name a few, the San Antonio Spurs have a hollow nose and are not mistaken when they draw first in the NBA Draft. 100% success. It’s happened to them twice so far: David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan ten years later in 1997. Two champions, two former MVPs, two Hall of Famers. Two legends. And no doubt two precious mentors in the years to come for Victor Wembanyama, who has everything to follow in their footsteps and thus swell the ranks of these former Draft number ones who wrote the history of the ociation in gold letters.

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