Inside Madison Square Garden for Victor Wembanyama’s Quiet New York Debut

The Knicks’ lead hovered between 20 and 30 points for most of the second half, depriving the fans of an outlet for their full rowdiness. When Wembanyama would go to the bench—obscuring the view of roughly half the lower bowl—the air came out of the balloon a bit. If it’s going to be uncompetitive, can we at least see the big guy? Apart from one trip to the free throw line at the end of the third quarter—which allowed the fans to bombard him with o-ver-rated chants—the Garden was eerily quiet. Wembanyama finished with 14 points, making just four of his 14 attempts. He and the Spurs won’t be back at MSG until next year, either, barring the most far-fetched NBA Finals matchup of all time. In almost every way imaginable, Wemby Wednesday was extremely anticlimactic.

But at the same time, the singular experience of watching someone as preposterously built as Wembanyama run around is not something you just forget about. This is a once-in-a-lifetime talent in a once-in-a-lifetime body, after all, playing in his eighth-ever NBA game. And we must remember, he’s younger than The Black Album.

“At this stage of his career, he’s learning a lot,” Popovich reminded the gaggle of media, both American and French. “To put the whole program on him now is a bit premature. He’s got a lot to work on. But eventually, I would think he would be a rather large part of the program.” At the very least, Wembanyama was able to embrace the moment in his postgame press conference, conceding that, win or lose, Madison Square Garden is still Madison Square Garden. “No matter how many times I play here, it will always be special.”

Hopefully, on future visits, he’ll make the Garden feel as big as he expected.

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