How tall is Victor Wembanyama? He still gets questions ahead of the draft.

NEW YORK — Victor Wembanyama’s absurd dimensions reduce incredulous onlookers to puddles of gasps and murmurs.

The impossibly tall French center arrived in New York City this week to headline Thursday’s NBA draft, and even America’s biggest city wasn’t equipped to handle him. Wembanyama had to duck his head to navigate a subway counter on his way to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium Tuesday, he ducked again to enter PS 092’s Harlem gymnasium for a Wednesday meeting with elementary school students, and he ducked again, perhaps out of reflex rather than necessity, to avoid a low-hanging ceiling during a press conference at a midtown Manhattan hotel.

There is much more to Wembanyama’s game than his extraordinary height, but the draft is all about first impressions and he cuts a towering figure. Once the San Antonio Spurs select him, Wembanyama will become the highest No. 1 pick since another international man of intrigue: Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6 Chinese center, in 2002.

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Once settled in New York, Wembanyama seemed comfortable in his own skin and fully ready for the next step in his career. In contrast, the NBA world still had its collective mind wrapped around a teenage prodigy with the size, skill and poise to lead the sport’s next generation. One persistent question, this time voiced by a pint-sized Harlem student, lingered: “Victor, how tall are you?”

Wembanyama answered 7-foot-3, though he looks at least an inch or two taller in sneakers and is listed at 7-foot-4 on the NBA website, and three rows of students let out screams of amazement. He’s been asked this question for most of his life — he started looking at a professional basketball career before he was a teenager — and he gets candid about his game-changing frame. Across the gymnasium, his mother, Elodie de Fautereau, a 6-3 former basketball player, reached up and hit the net hanging from a hoop.

“[The height question] got old a long time ago,” Wembanyama said before pausing to consider that it might take a while for his new country to adjust to him. “It’s okay. I don’t mind. It’s part of the fun.”

Few things in sports are happier than daydreaming about the potential of a talented prospect like Wembanyama, who averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks for the Metropolitans 92 in France’s top professional league. And there are plenty of dreamers in New York: Gawkers greeted him at the airport Monday, a cluster of autograph seekers have trailed him from event to event, and he joked that he’d wait until nightfall to slip past the crowds that have gathered outside his hotel so he could sneak a visit to Times Square.

The NBA has taken an active role in encouraging Wemby Mania, striking a deal to broadcast his French league games on its mobile app and regularly sharing his highlights on social media; he ranked among the 10 most-watched players on the league’s channels this season.

In a break from typical conventions necessitated by his popularity, Wembanyama took questions in English and French from dozens of reporters at a solo news conference rather than sharing interview time with his colleagues in a ballroom. His rookie campaign will be the most anticipated since LeBron James’s in 2003, and he assured an eager reporter that he plans to play in summer league.

Before all that, Wembanyama will shake hands with commissioner Adam Silver at the Barclays Center and become the first French player to be selected with the top pick.

“I have thought [about the draft] for years,” Wembanyama said. “I can’t really describe how I feel right now. I just know I’m having trouble sleeping tonight.”

Going first in his class has been a long-standing goal for Wembanyama, who removed any doubts with impressive performances during two showcase matches against G League star Scoot Henderson, likely to be a top-three pick, near Las Vegas in October .

“It’s a matter of pride,” Wembanyama said. “I’ve always hated having someone above me. I can’t accept not being number one.”

Henderson, who will join Brandon Miller, Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker and Amen Thompson among the top lottery picks in Thursday’s draft, smiled at the memory of his failed attempt to dunk over Wembanyama last fall. Like the Harlem students, the 6-2 guard came away wondering.

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“I just saw how tall [Wembanyama] was,” Henderson said. “It was kind of crazy to see how skilled he was as well and how he could shoot the ball. This class is definitely special. I like to say that this is one of the best classes since [2003].”

The lottery draw for the rights to Wembanyama in May ended with the Spurs drawing the winning numbers, leaving Wembanyama thrilled to land with an organization that once employed his compatriots Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. He dismissed the idea that having former No. 1 picks David Robinson and Tim Duncan represented extra pressure, but said the 2013 and 2014 Finals between Duncan’s Spurs and James’ Miami Heat first hooked him on the NBA and launched, what has become a perfectionist. trip.

“I try to be the best,” he said. “Being the best is not just on the field; these are all dimensions of the job. I also want to be the best for the media and press conferences. I don’t like to do things halfway.”

Restoring the Spurs to championship heights will be a heavy lift after they finished tied for the Western Conference’s worst record last season at 22-60. San Antonio has missed the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, the franchise’s longest postseason drought.

Speculation has begun to mount that the Spurs, who pioneered the practice of load management, will ease their new center into his NBA career. Although his thin frame has drawn questions from skeptics concerned about the possibility of injury, Wembanyama told “Good Morning America” ​​that he didn’t need to “bulk up” and that other prospects should “slimen up” instead.

Regardless of how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich handles his rotation, Wembanyama said he expects to be the rookie of the year in 2024 and ultimately wants to be an MVP-caliber player who competes for titles. To get there, he follows Parker’s advice to avoid making the same mistake twice and try to improve his fitness.

Wembanyama wants to hit the ground running.

“I have to work on being able to be intense for long periods of time,” he said. “Don’t get tired too fast. … I’m not even a rookie yet. I don’t know how [managing minutes] working in the NBA. I want to learn how it works and how to win as soon as possible. I have no time to lose.”

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