Chet Holmgren finally made his NBA debut on Monday in the Paycom Center. After being selected 2nd overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, Holmgren had to wait an entire season to step on the hardwood due to a LisFranc Fracture he suffered last August. A lot has changed in that last year.
Not only did the OKC Thunder see a 16-win improvement, but they also watched Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerge as one of the best players in the world, Jalen Williams finish as runner-up for Rookie of the Year, and a young core that looks destined for a ton of success.
Chet Holmgren will see some of the pressure he faced a year ago at this time alleviated. He does not have to be the guy, or the face, or the best player. He can just play and let the chips fall where they may.
However, the changes were not limited to just internal. The NBA welcomed the most hyped prospect since LeBron James, Victor Wembanyama, enter the league. Wembanyama and Holmgren represent “unicorn” big men with unmatched potential, and due to their somewhat similar play, the NBA world has naturally compared the two.
The OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs could renew their rivalries, with Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren living up to the billing.
However, it is not just the media or fans who compare Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren, attempting to spark a rivalry. It is the league itself. The NBA not only had their debut against each other but has put them as a staple game of the NBA In-Season tournament and on “rivalry week.”
Often, these rivalries can run stale, feel manufactured, or flat-out not exist. For as great as the NBA has been recently, the thing it lacks the most is good old-fashioned rivals. They might have just found it in Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama.
Neither one of these players went out of their way to say something shocking about the other, or even fully commit to being rivals, but they certainly did not deny it either. From Legendary head coach Gregg Popovich saying the two “went at each other” within the flow of the game to them flexing on one another in a preseason tilt, this has the makings of something special.
It did not take long for this rivalry to spill into social media, even by the players involved. Chet Holmgren quote tweeted a video of Victor Wembanyama flexing over him on an and-one bucket, saying, “The headbutt is an unstoppable move, fasho.”
Every move these two make, especially against each other, will be under a microscope, and the players see these social media posts.
The OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are set up with the young cores and resources to embark on quite a successful run. Tonight felt different. It felt like the start of the NBA’s next great American Rivalry.