Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama became the first player in NBA history to win both Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season Via @spurs on X/Twitter

SEATTLE - The entire basketball world anticipated Victor Wembanyama's stardom in the NBA, but few expected him to excel so early. On May 6, the Frenchman was named this year's Rookie of the Year, receiving 99 first-place votes.

The San Antonio Spurs' towering talent became the first unanimous winner of the award since Karl-Anthony Towns, hailing from the Dominican Republic, achieved the feat in 2016.

After posting their worst season in more than 30 years, the San Antonio Spurs received the No.1 overall pick at the 2023 NBA Draft. With the pick, they selected the phenom 7'4" center Wembanyama, who returned hope to a franchise that has spent the last few years in a rebuild phase after three decades of success.

His first season in the NBA didn't disappoint Spurs fans. He led all rookies in points, rebounds and blocks per game and did so with a strict restriction of minutes from his coach Gregg Popovich. Wembanyama played over 40 minutes in just one game and finished the season averaging less than 30 minutes per game.

But time wasn't an issue for the Frenchman, who averaged 21.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 3.6 BPG. He became the first player in NBA history with at least 1,500 points, 700 rebounds, 250 assists, 250 blocks and 100 3-pointers made in a single season.

If Spurs fans were concerned about Wembanyama's ability to spread the floor, he showed signs of having a good jump shot. He finished the season shooting 32.5% from three-point range, the second-best clip by a center to win Rookie of the Year only behind Karl-Anthony Towns' clip of 34% in 2016. Wembanyama had a total of five games with four or more three-pointers in a single game compared to KAT's zero in his rookie year.

Defensively, Wembanyama lifted a Spurs team that ranked last in defensive rating and fifth in total blocks last season. With the Frenchman on the team, the Spurs went from 25th to 3rd in total blocks (Spurs had almost 200 more blocks in 2023-24 compared to the previous season).

Wembanyama showed glimpses of the best David Robinson or Tim Duncan, players that also impressed Spurs fans early on in their careers thanks to their defensive prowess. The Frenchman finished the season averaging 3.6 blocks per game, the most by a rookie since "The Admiral" Robinson led rookies with 3.9 blocks per game in 1989-90.

Wembanyama's historic season almost added another accolade to his already stacked rookie season. He finished in second place for this year's Defensive Player of the Year after helping turn around one of the worst defensive teams last year into a more competitive team on that side of the ball. With Wembanyama, the Spurs allowed 4.5 points less per game this year compared to last season (123.1, worst in the NBA).

Wembanyama received 19 first-place votes, finishing behind the Timberwolves' Rudy Gobert, who has now won the award a record four times, tying Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace for the most all-time.

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