Mark Burnett can’t get Victor Wembaniama out of his head. Well, it could, but it would be like taking a knife to the “Mona Lisa.”
Burnett gave San Antonio Spurs superfan Joe Barajas a popular local barber a Wembaniaman haircut a week ago. He, like everyone else in the basketball world, was expecting the Spurs to select Wembanyama No. 1 in the NBA draft on Thursday.
“I wanted to show Victor something special that the city of San Antonio already loves,” Burnett said at the draft night party at the Spurs’ home arena, moments before San Antonio chose Wembaniaman, who shared a photo of Burnett. His Instagram account.
Extremist? in case. But also very logical, and not just because of the high hopes of the 19-year-old French basketball star at Wembanyama. As San Antonio’s only major professional sports franchise, the Spurs are the beating heart of the seventh largest city in America.
“I want to do my best in every aspect of my career,” Wembanyama said at his introductory news conference in San Antonio on Saturday. “The fans were great at what they did. I can only hope to be at their level.
But that magic has recently disappeared in the river town. The Spurs haven’t been to the playoffs in the past four seasons; Since 1997, he has won five championships every year. They offer a silver lining to a dismal 2022-23 campaign in which they are tied for the worst record in the Western Conference: they are tied for the best odds to receive the No. 1 pick in the draft. Now they have Wembaniyama.
“It’s going to be a huge blow to the economy,” said Aaron Pena, who owns two bars in San Antonio and plans to open another in two weeks. “We are planning to host every Spurs game, not just the opening parties. It’s going to be a party.
For some business owners, the party has already started. Chip Ingram owns the Rue Pub, an Australian themed bar inspired by Patty Mills, a former Spurs keeper from Australia. Ingram got a crowd at the bar on May 16 after announcing that the Spurs would pick up the tab if they won the lottery that night. It could have cost him a pretty penny that night as the Spurs won, but Ingram’s spotlight made it more than worth it.
Ingram topped the menu with a “Wemby Burger” topped with foie gras and French onion strings. After a $1 promotional deal on draft night, the burger now costs $21.50 — the same as Spurs legends Tim Duncan, who wore No. 21, and David Robinson, who wore No. 50.
Economic research casts some doubt on the potential strength of the Wembanyama effect in San Antonio. In 2017, Harvard University’s Daniel Schwag and American Enterprise Institute’s Stan Weuger wrote that LeBron James’ 2017 But James This was not the case in Miami during the 2010 heat wave, although it had a significant impact on workplaces near both cities. Economists have long argued that professional sports franchises and their stadiums do little to help local economies.
“I think people will be into the Spurs no matter what, but this will bring more attention to San Antonio,” said Julian Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio who served as secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama. Obama. “It gives the city a huge boost in how much national attention it has. It increases the city’s appearance and visibility with people, and this is always good for business.
Shea Serrano, an author and television personality from San Antonio, never misses an opportunity to discuss his beloved Spurs. “I lost my mind,” he said when the Spurs won the draft lottery.
“At that point, I felt like we won another championship in the city,” he said.
Brandon Gayle, Spurs’ chief operating officer, said the team had experienced a significant increase in demand for season tickets – and a more diverse demographic than usual from youth. San Antonio’s population is about 66 percent Hispanic or Latino and 23 percent white of any race, with less than 10 percent of residents being Asian or black/African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gayle said the Spurs are looking to further expand their reach to Mexico and Austin, Texas, where the team has played several games in the near future.
From the Spurs’ debut before the 2002-3 season until the 2018-19 season, the last time the team made the playoffs, San Antonio has always ranked in the top half of the NBA in attendance. They’ve been in the bottom five the past two seasons.
Carly Tovar represents the second generation of a three-generation Spur family. She attended a draft night party with her young son, Mario Calderon, and her father, Ralph Tovar, when the team moved from Dallas in the 1970s. The Spurs won their first title in 1999 when Carly was in high school. Over her father’s objections, she went downtown to take part in the celebration, with fans walking the freeway, honking their car horns and soaking in the victory over the Knicks.
“I came up with David Robinson, Avery Johnson, and I was able to appreciate the next generation from Duncan and Robinson,” Carly said. “So now we’re seeing this happen for the third time.” She gestured to her son.
Ralph agreed. “It’s good for our city,” he said. “It contains the fire we call la lumbre.”
The renewed energy around the Spurs has visibly transformed San Antonio, dramatically changing Wembaniyama’s reputation for local artists. Oscar Alvarado, a tile mosaic artist who traces his family’s San Antonio roots nearly 300 years ago, built an 18-foot-tall Wembaniyama out of metal and wood. Colton Valentine painted a larger-than-life mural of Wembanyama dribbling two basketballs outside a bar in Southtown’s artist neighborhood, with a visit from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. And Nik Soupe might be the bravest of all: he finished the Wembanyama drawing in a Spurs jersey two months before the draft lottery.
Many fans decided that Wembaniyama’s ability to produce sensational screams was not “Spurslike”. Duncan has been particularly quiet and rarely does interviews or commercials, much like Kawhi Leonard, who helped the Spurs win their most recent championship in 2014.
But so far, Wembaniyama has basked in the limelight. After landing in San Antonio on Friday, he beamed in a video on Instagram as he was greeted by a crowd of fans.
“He has to protect the little old ladies in Catholic churches who pray for Spurs to win, and his success is celebrated by people like his family,” Castro said. That enthusiasm and a lot of people take it personally.”