Victor Wembanyama during a press conference at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance in Vincennes, France, on June 27, 2024.

South of Rouen, the capital of Normandy, the Gustave-Flaubert bridge stretches across the River Seine. Overlooking the structure, two immense towers raise the deck high above the waters of the Seine. But on Wednesday, July 3, just a stone’s throw from the bridge, two other towers were attracting attention: Victor Wembanyama (“Wemby”) and Rudy Gobert, teamed up for the first time in the blue jersey of the French men’s basketball team.

For several years now, the French Basketball Federation (FFBB) has been keen to organize its summer matches in France, in order to “show off the jersey,” and connect its stars playing in the NBA – the North American professional league – with the French territory. And they weren’t going to change their traditions with the Olympic summer in France. Except for a trip to Cologne, Germany, the French men’s team will be playing all its warm-up games at home, from Lyon to Montpellier, via Orleans and Rouen.

Les Bleus kicked off their pre-Paris 2024 campaign against Turkey on Wednesday in the Seine-Maritime prefecture. And it was a big win (96-46), aided by their “twin towers,” in the words of Vincent Collet. “There’s inevitably a question mark over this pairing, and we talk about it a lot with my assistants,” admitted the French coach on June 27, during Les Bleus’ media day. Because [in basketball] it’s often considered very difficult to get two players over 2.15 meters to play together.” Gobert is 2.16 meters tall, while Wembanyama peaks at 2.24 meters.

“But Victor has a mobility that is not usual with a player [of his size],” added Collet, smiling, seduced by the potential of the combination between the NBA’s best defender of the year and his runner-up, himself crowned best rookie of the season and a new phenomenon in world basketball.

In this first outing for Les Bleus on the road to the Paris Olympics, their double act started with the very first action. Served behind the three-point line, Wemby sent the ball dipping out of reach of the opposing team and to his teammate Gobert, who served up and scored the first French points. A few minutes later, it was the same story. Served on the move, Wembanyama drew two defenders to him, and found his partner with a ground pass, the conclusion of an ideal start to the game (11-0). “It’s obvious that their defensive partnership is not a problem. In attack, Victor showed his ability to pass, and Rudy benefited from that,” enthused Collet after the match.” But in terms of covering space in defense, with both of them, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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