Tickets run out where he plays. The French basketball prodigy Victor Wembanyama has become the great attraction of the national competition, a few months after his expected landing in the NBA.
"the never seen", "An alien", "nothing comparable"… The leaders of the French national league do not give credit to the ‘Wembamania’ that breaks out in every game played by the Metropolitans Boulogne-Levallois, their club on the outskirts of Paris.
Heralded as the next dominator of world basketball, the 19-year-old, 7-foot-2.5-inch (2.21-meter) center has sold out 14 of his 17 games. The same thing will happen on Friday, in the quarterfinals of the Leaders Cup against Asvel.
In Blois, at the beginning of February, the 2,850 seats were sold as soon as they went on sale.
"It’s the sixth season that I’ve been in charge of ticket sales and I’ve never seen anything like this, not because of last year’s play-off final or when we hosted Asvel at the beginning of the season in our first game in Elite (the league French)"explains to AFP Johan Gallon, responsible for ‘tickets’ at ADA Blois.
In Pau, where Elan Bearnais will host the Metropolitans on March 7, the club has tried to adapt to face unprecedented demand.
"We have sold all the places in seats and now we have put up standing places for sale through an accepted prefectural authorization, something that is not very frequent"said Audrey Sauret, the club’s general manager.
For Alain Beral, president of the national basketball league, ‘Wemby’ reinforces the upward trend of a greater presence of the public in the French pavilions.
"We feel an acceleration because everyone knows that it will not be here next year, and if people want to see it, they will have to get up at dawn (to follow the NBA games), while here they can see it with their own eyes."points out to AFP.
The best scorer in the Elite league (22.2 average points) could become the first Frenchman to be chosen number 1 in the NBA draft in May. He would make it to the competition the next season.
Waiting, the French championship wants "capitalize" to the French international. At the moment the season marks a record for attendance, with 3,685 spectators per game on average.
"The big difference is in the behavior in purchases, since the sale opens people ask us for the date to have a place “in the game where the great plays”"smiles Audrey Sauret.
"We know that they will not be people who will be loyal for a year-round subscription but it is still a clientele that must be sought out for two or three games a year"Add.
More applications than places
In its pavilion it has also become an almost impossible challenge to find ‘tickets’: At the time of the opening of the online sale, the number of people connected is greater than the places available in the small Marcel Cerdan Sports Palace in Levallois.
Is there a fear of a decrease in the number of spectators after the announced march of the pivot to the NBA?
"The luck is that people who come to discover something come back because they liked it. The objective is to lead the clubs to excellence with significant budgets, great French players who return, so I don’t think the balloon will deflate after Wembanyama"explains Alain Beral.