Victor Wembanyama's most unbelievable first-half highlights

Wemby's rookie-season highlights have the NBA buzzing (1:41)

Check out some of the best plays of Victor Wembanyama's rookie season with the Spurs. (1:41)

There are few players in the NBA who know more about Victor Wembanyama than Rudy Gobert does.

The two unusually tall Frenchmen have known each other for years, with 31-year-old Gobert having imparted wisdom to 20-year-old Wembanyama as he made his journey to the NBA.

A good portion of NBA fans got their first look more than three years ago at Wembanyama, then 16 years old and playing with Nanterre 92 in France, when he played a game of 2-on-2 against Gobert and former NBA center Vincent Poirier in an empty gym. Already 7-foot-3 then, Wembanyama impressed a viral audience with a dizzying array of step-back jumpers and off-the-ball moves against the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

The two Frenchmen met as NBA players for the first time when Wembanyama's San Antonio Spurs met Gobert's Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 10, with Wembanyama putting up 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Gobert heaped praise on the rookie, saying he was occupying minds and altering shots at an uncommonly early age.

Gobert's report was succinct -- and tantalizing: The young star, he said, would be a "real problem really soon" for everyone across the league.

It took less than four months.

And while Wembanyama's evolution is far from complete, Gobert is looking more prophetic by the day. The rookie has already produced more than a season's worth of highlights that have left his teammates and his opponents in awe.

"It's so hard to imagine what it's going to be if he keeps -- and he will -- up after a couple years of working," Gobert said. "I can't even imagine how he's going to evolve."

Oct. 20 at Golden State Warriors: 90 seconds of what the hell was that?!

Victor Wembanyama puts up 19 points, 5 blocks in preseason finale

Victor Wembanyama scores 19 points and blocks five shots in the Spurs' preseason finale vs. the Warriors.

After a shaky summer league debut, some around the league wondered how long it would take the 2023 No. 1 pick to adapt to the NBA game. Any lingering concerns were answered resoundingly in the Spurs' preseason finale against the Warriors.

In one 90-second span in the first quarter, Wembanyama:

  • Made a pull-up jumper after a crossover and a pump fake that got Andrew Wiggins fully airborne.

  • Drove baseline on Klay Thompson, got fouled and made the shot from a nearly impossible angle before converting the free throw.

  • Blocked a Thompson 3-point attempt from the top of the key, then hesitated before slamming it home on the other end as Thompson flew by.

  • Blocked a Wiggins drive in the lane and, on the next possession, swished home a 28-foot 3.

When Wembanyama and the Spurs traveled back to San Francisco for an in-season tournament game, Stephen Curry spoke about how much the rookie changes the game.

"You can't do the same thing you normally do. He blocked my shot on a floater, and I don't even think he jumped. He just went like that," Curry said, gesturing with his arm, "and knocked it off the backboard. It still catches you by surprise, the stuff that he does because of his stature."

Oct. 27 vs. Houston Rockets: Not one, but two game-saving blocks

Wembanyama dazzles with back-to-back blocks on Jabari Smith

Victor Wembanyama denies Jabari Smith Jr.'s poster attempt, then blocks him again under the rim.

The Spurs' first win of the season happened, in part, because of a pair of blocks. On the same play. With different hands.

With the Spurs trailing by three with two minutes to go, Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. caught a pass from Jalen Green and was driving for a dunk.

Then he met a waiting Wembanyama, who swatted his dunk away with his right hand and stumbled backward out of bounds. Smith gathered the rebound and, as he tried to go up for a reverse putback layup, Wembanyama got back in bounds and blocked that attempt with his left hand.

"He's going to make some amazing plays at least once a game," Spurs guard Devin Vassell said. "And I think today he probably had three or four."

The Spurs went on to win the game 126-122 in overtime, with Wembanyama giving the Spurs the lead for good with a jumper over Dillon Brooks.

Jan. 2 at Memphis Grizzlies: The signature one-legged 3

Victor Wembanyama sinks a one-legged 3-pointer

Victor Wembanyama makes it look easy as he rises up to knock down the one-legged triple.

It's hard to imagine anyone who had just turned 20 and hadn't even played 50 games in the NBA having a signature move, but Wembanyama isn't just anyone.

A 7-4 center shooting any type of 3-pointer is something of an anomaly, but Wembanyama has, since his days in France, specialized in one specific type of 3-pointer: the one-legged trey.

He used the move in FIBA play with the French national team and during his days playing for Mets 92. And he practices it, typically getting at least one up during his pregame routine. In Miami during a shootaround earlier this season, Wembanyama even had teammates Zach Collins and Sandro Mamukelashvili attempting them.

Its first appearance in the NBA was on Jan. 2 against the Grizzlies. Dribbling near the logo, Wembanyama was working against then-Memphis center Bismack Biyombo. With 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Wembanyama took one step off the Grizzlies' logo and rose up on one leg to fire a 30-footer from the top of the key.

It hit off the backboard, then the rim, then spun up in the air and hit the top of the backboard again before falling in.

"That s--- was wild," Vassell told ESPN. "That's a wild-ass play. I ain't never seen nobody shoot it off one [leg] like that."

Jan. 4 vs. Milwaukee Bucks: An array of highlights

When asked what their favorite Wembanyama highlight of the season was, multiple teammates cited their meeting with the Bucks two days after the Grizzlies game -- but couldn't agree on which play was the best.

Keldon Johnson's pick was a play in the second quarter, when Wembanyama answered a Giannis Antetokounmpo highlight slam with one of his own, with a twist.

Wembanyama split a double-team from Antetokounmpo and Pat Connaughton but found himself just to the right of the free throw line with no momentum toward the basket -- too far to take off for a dunk. So he improvised. With a clear lane ahead of him, Wembanyama tossed the ball underhanded off the glass, caught it while he was in mid-air and threw down a self alley-oop, the kind that is usually only seen in All-Star games.

"That kind of happened in the moment," Wembanyama said. "I saw the open lane, but I stopped my dribble a little too early. But I'm resourceful. Even with no dribble I can do some stuff."

Wemby tosses off the backboard to himself for a jam

Victor Wembanyama amazes on his birthday by tossing off the backboard to himself for a two-handed dunk.

In the second half, Wembanyama created more reels for his teammates to highlight. With just under 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Wembanyama got a steal off a bad pass from Connaughton and had only Damian Lillard in his path.

Lillard, perhaps sensing the looming futility of his effort, went for the strip, but Wembanyama went behind his back. As he did, he rose to the rim to dunk over a Brook Lopez contest. Wembanyama flexed as he walked toward the Spurs tunnel that led back to the locker room.

That topped the list for Spurs guard Devonte' Graham.

"I see him going to get ready to do the behind the back and I'm like, 'Oh OK, that's tough' but then I'm like, 'Oh s---, is that Brook?," Graham told ESPN. "Brook was coming from behind, and I thought he was about to block it. But somehow, someway. [Wembanyama] barely jumped too. He just reached his arms up and dunked it.

"That's definitely No. 1."

Wemby goes behind the back, then crams one down on Lopez

Victor Wembanyama uses a behind-the-back move en route to a huge dunk plus the foul.

Wembanyama, for his part, told ESPN that play stood out the most from this game, ranking it among his top three of the season.

But he wasn't done.

Wembanyama capped off the ridiculous evening in the final minute of the game as the Spurs were trying to complete a comeback. Clinging to just a three-point lead, Antetokounmpo drove on Wembanyama and put his shoulder into the rookie, trying to use all of his 242-pound frame to knock the 209-pound Wembanyama out of the picture. Antetokounmpo rose for a dunk, but the long arms of Wembanyama were there to meet him.

Wemby emphatically denies Giannis late

Giannis Antetokounmpo tries to drop in a late bucket, but Victor Wembanyama elevates for the big block.

According to Second Spectrum, it was only the second time this season Antetokounmpo has been blocked on a driving dunk.

"The sky's the limit as long as you work hard and keep having a positive attitude and energy toward the game," Antetokounmpo said. "Everything that he dreams of is going to happen for him. I've seen him play. He played with my younger brother. I went and watched a couple of games. I've seen him compete, and even then I knew he was going to be special. But now seeing him play against NBA players and doing the things that he's doing, it's pretty amazing."

Jan. 20 at Washington Wizards: The no-look block

Wemby makes a no-look block on Tyus Jones

Victor Wembanyama is able to pull off a no-look block on Wizards' Tyus Jones.

Tre Jones had a close-up look for perhaps Wembanyama's unlikeliest block of the year. Like the double block against Houston, this one also played a crucial role in deciding the outcome of a game.

With 38.5 seconds remaining and the Spurs up one, the Wizards' Tyus Jones drove on his younger brother Tre Jones. He faked a pass to the left, which sent Wembanyama looking the other way. It seemed for a split second like the elder Jones was going to give the Wizards a lead with a layup.

Instead, without even turning to face Jones, Wembanyama reached out with his right hand and blocked the shot, leaving both Jones brothers in disbelief.

"That was crazy," Tre Jones said. "He turned around. He started facing the other way, and I was like, 'No.' My brother got him with the fake. Then he just 360'd it. I don't even think he saw him layup. I think he just turned and guessed where it was.

"It was a crazy block. I know my brother was surprised."

Jan. 26 vs. Portland Trail Blazers: The spike block

Wemby obliterates Simons' shot attempt with a spike block

Victor Wembanyama spikes Anfernee Simons' shot away, which leads to Tre Jones' 3-pointer on the other end for San Antonio.

Wembanyama's highlight plays have drawn all sorts of reactions from opposing players, ranging from stunned silence to comic disbelief.

In the preseason against the Miami Heat, there was a dunk on Thomas Bryant in which Bryant's incredulous reaction was captured by a fan behind the Heat bench. On Dec. 15 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wembanyama's put-back slam on Christian Wood made the Lakers bench look on in awe.

But perhaps the funniest reaction so far came from Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons after he had a driving scoop layup "blocked," to put it generously, by Wembanyama. As Simons rose, Wembanyama leaped from behind and slammed the shot straight down, where it hit the Frost Bank Arena floor so hard that it bounced back up above the rim.

After the game, all Simons could do was share his reaction on social media, saying "that s--- crazy lol."

Jan. 27 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: The tallest Shammgod ever

Wemby cooks Rudy Gobert with a Shammgod and bucket

Victor Wembanyama hits Rudy Gobert with a Shammgod and scores the inside bucket.

The move popularized in the United States by God Shammgod is known to Wembanyama by a different name: the Bodiroga, named after the current president of EuroLeague, Dejan Bodiroga, who had a storied 18-year playing career in Europe. No matter what you call the move, doing it at 7-4 is mind-boggling.

During an appearance on TNT, Wembanyama said he works on all sorts of ballhandling moves, including the Shammgod, a crossover typically used by quick and shifty guards rather than the giants of the game.

When Wembanyama broke one out against Gobert -- and finished it with a scoop layup -- his teammates couldn't believe what they'd witnessed.

"At this point it's like whatever he's doing, you can't even be surprised or put past him at this point because all the crazy things he's been doing," Tre Jones told ESPN.

That wasn't even the first jaw-dropping dribble move he's pulled out this year. He executed a well-timed nutmeg on Rockets guard Reggie Bullock in the preseason.

"I improvise sometimes and surprise myself sometimes," Wembanyama said back on Oct. 18.

When Wembanyama pulled off the Shammgod, only one person on the bench stood up. That was Malaki Branham -- who might have been the only teammate to immediately realize exactly what Wembanyama did. In the Spurs' locker room, the Wemby Shammgod is the consensus pick for their favorite offensive play of the season.

"I've seen a lot of people do it. [Chris Paul] is good at that," Cedi Osman told ESPN. "But I never seen a big man do something like that."