They peak at 4.40 meters together. The high altitude battle took place on Saturday January 27 between the French Victor Wembanyama (2.24 m) and Rudy Gobert (2.16) during the NBA match between San Antonio and Minnesota. And it was “Wemby”, the Spurs rookie, who won at home against “Gobzilla”, the Timberwolves veteran, after an exciting match (113-112).

The poster, contested in a crazy atmosphere, offered some great duels between the two pivots, notably in a muscular first quarter where the two friends did not spare each other under the baskets.

Faster at the start of the game, Wembanyama faked Karl-Anthony Towns, another Wolves “big man”, then managed a “eurostep” (change of direction on a step) in front of Gobert for an acrobatic basket, before losing the Wolves pivot on a “crossover” (change of direction on a dribble), normally reserved for smaller sizes. Gobert responded with a nifty floater in the second quarter and several opportunistic baskets, with him more often focused on defensive duties.

The two Frenchmen were only interrupted by the arrival of a bat, finally captured by the Spurs mascot, a coyote disguised as a batman. The Texan mascot had already captured two bats in the past, and Argentine player Manu Ginobili, teammate of Frenchman Tony Parker at the time, had knocked one to the mat with his bare hand in November 2009.

The gap increased to 15 points in favor of Minnesota, second in the West and an experienced team contending for the NBA title, but San Antonio, last in the same conference, never gave up, displaying constant energy.

Victor is “more and more comfortable, at all levels”

The public, accustomed to basketball mush for several months, enjoyed this disorderly energy and pushed for the return of their team in the last quarter, roaring at each action of Wembanyama, number one in the last draft, which should ultimately help Spurs return to the top.

Karl-Anthony Towns missed the winning shot at the buzzer after a fierce defense from Spurs, for only their tenth success of the season (36 defeats). In the end, Victor Wembanyama scored 23 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, while Rudy Gobert had 19 points and 7 rebounds.

The 20-year-old Frenchman, author of a few three-point shots, nevertheless faltered by missing two free throws 49 seconds before the siren, allowing an equalization for the Wolves by the leaping Anthony Edwards (32 points), before making up for it with an assist for the final basket of the match from Devin Vassell (25 points).

“It’s perhaps our best match, in any case a very good match. Tonight we can be proud of ourselves, we have to get used to it to repeat these performances,” appreciated Victor Wembanyama. “It’s always fun to play against Victor (…) he’s more and more comfortable, at all levels, the game is slowing down a little for him. He makes fewer mistakes too,” said Rudy Gobert about his teammate in the French team, whom he should meet again at the Paris Olympic Games this summer. “We are both aware of the impact of this competition, we can’t wait to be able to share the field even if we remain focused on our season,” added Gobert.

Wembanyama’s Spurs host Washington on Monday and can hope for a third victory in a row for the first time this season, against another poorly ranked side.