The NBA returns to Paris for the first time in three years on Thursday, amid rising anticipation in France that the men’s national team will win Olympic gold on home soil next year. Tickets for the Chicago Bulls vs. Detroit Pistons game at Accor Arena sold out in minutes, and the buildup has been “wild in the best possible manner,” according to George Aivazoglou, the NBA’s head of fan engagement for Europe and the Middle East. “The French have a tremendous basketball culture and have generated great players, excellent clubs, and very successful national teams throughout the years,” Aivazoglou added.
“It’s ingrained in their sport DNA.” After almost upsetting the United States in the final, the French men’s team earned their third Olympic silver medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021 and will try to top the podium in front of their home supporters in next year’s Games. France’s powerhouse lineup will almost certainly include Minnesota Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert, New York Knicks sharpshooter Evan Fournier, and Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes, but the star attraction might be adolescent Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-4 Le Chesnay native is the most anticipated talent since LeBron James and is predicted to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, maybe by the failing Pistons.
“He’s one of the most exciting possibilities in many decades, if not all time,” Aivazoglou added. “Basketball is a sport that the French are already crazy about, and Wembanyama only adds to it.” After a protracted absence due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the league vows it will not wait another three years to return to Paris.