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Wembanyama starts for Spurs in NBA Summer League debut

Charlotte Hornets' Nick Smith Jr. (L) holds the ball as San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama (R) guards him during the NBA Summer League game between the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 7, 2023. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP

NBA top draft pick Victor Wembanyama played his long-awaited first game with the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, the 19-year-old Frenchman starting in an NBA Summer League contest against Charlotte.

A sellout crowd of 17,500 spectators jammed the Thomas & Mack Arena to watch the 7-foot-4 (2.24m) prodigy, considered the NBA’s greatest prospect since LeBron James arrived two decades ago, against other young prospects.

Wembanyama won the opening tip-off and had an assist on the first Spurs possession, but missed his first three shots — a baseline jumper, an outside jumper and a layup attempt.

Wembanyama made his first basket in a Spurs uniform with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter, banking in an inside turnaround jumper in the lane while being fouled. He sank the free throw to complete a three-point play.

His opponents, the Hornets, were the club that made forward Brandon Miller the second overall pick.

Already a star in the French league, Wembanyama was considered a runaway choice for the top pick when the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery in May and global attention has followed him even before San Antonio made him the first selection last month.

The Summer League, featuring young talent seeking NBA roster spots, offered Wembanyama his first game in a Spurs uniform, but more contests will be coming, including pre-season games and San Antonio’s 2023-24 regular-season games starting in October.

There were cautionary notes for Wembanyama before he even took the court.

The third pick in the NBA Draft, Portland guard Scoot Henderson, suffered a right shoulder injury in the third quarter against Houston and didn’t return to the game played just before the Spurs met the Hornets.

The fourth pick, Houston guard Amen Thompson, limped off in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, having grabbed his left ankle after falling to the court under the basket.

The Spurs will face Portland on Sunday.

Wembanyama’s Spurs debut was played hours after Las Vegas police said no charges will be filed from an incident where guards protecting Wembanyama were involved in an incident with Britney Spears.

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