25 August, 2023
10 September
France Big Trio
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Beware France's potential fearsome frontcourt

MIES (Switzerland) - France are preparing to go into battle with one of the scariest frontcourts of all time. Will Les Bleus fans see those three giants together on same court soon? At the World Cup next summer? In the Olympic Games in Paris 2024?

With French citizenship granted to Cameroon-born Joel Embiid over the summer, and the recent dominance of Victor Wembanyama for his club Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, national team coach Vincent Collet has a couple of tantalizing players to put alongside skyscraper Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt.

Collet is also Wembanyama's coach at Boulogne.

If Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Embiid and Wembanyama play at the same time for France, the sheer size of the trio would be impressive.

Embiid is 2.13m (7ft) in height while Gobert is 2.16m (7ft 1in). Wembanyama is a towering 2.21m (7ft 3in) tall, and his wingspan is 2.42m (8 feet)!

Gobert is a pure center, Embiid and Wembanyama can play also the power forward, but a possibility exist to see them all three on the court at the same time.

"Just like in Boulogne, he will play center and power forward, depending on who's playing with him on the floor," Collet said of Wembanyama. "With Rudy and, who knows, Joel, maybe, he will play (small) forward." Collet said this with a smile on his face. But this is not just a fantasy. At the end of the France-Bosnia and Herzegovina game earlier this month, Wemby played 2 minutes at the foward position alongside Alexandre Chassang and Yoan Makoundou, both inside players.

It's a fascinating prospect.

Wembanyama, 18, was a standout in France's youth national teams. He has been spectacular for Metropolitans 92 this season, as well as for the national team in the fifth window of the European Qualifiers for the World Cup.

Players of his size simply shouldn't be able to do what he is doing.

He has fluid moves while driving to the basket. He is poetry in motion. He shoots from long range!

Once he gets stronger, Wembanyama will be unstoppable.


And he's very hungry to have success with France.

"I would like to play and win titles and medals for the national team, that is for sure," he said. "The World Cup, the Olympics, EuroBasket, I want them all, and I want to help France keep writing fantastic pages in its basketball's history."

So with this triumvirate, the positives are obvious. There would be rim protection and rebounding on defense while on offense, there'd be inside scoring, rebounding and, thanks to Wembanyama's range, perimeter shooting.

He could thrive with Gobert, an All-Star Five selection at EuroBasket 2022 who averaged 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. Gobert is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the year (2018, 2019, 2021). He is a shot-blocker extraordinaire.

Cameroon-born Embiid is a scoring juggernaut and ferocious rebounder.The 28-year-old is averaging more than 32 points and 11 rebounds and also rejecting his share of shots for Philadelphia this season. On November 14th, he had a monster game in a win against Utah. 59 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 7 blocks. Unheard of in the history of the NBA.

This tantalizing trinity of seven-footers, a trio de géants français, makes the imagination run wild.

There have obviously been dominant frontcourts over the years.

Just not one as tall.

The USA's 1992 and 1996 Olympic squads had it all.

The Dream Team had unparalleled quality at all positions, and multiple frontcourt options, in Barcelona. It had two seven-footers,  2.16m David Robinson (7ft 1in) and 2.13m Patrick Ewing (7ft) as centers.

David Robinson was in the Olympic Gold Medal-winning USA frontcourts in 1992 and 1996

The power forwards , 2.06m Karl Malone (6ft 9in) and1.98m Charles Barkley (6ft 6in), were dominant. The 2.03m Scottie Pippen (6ft 8in), 2.06m Larry Bird (6ft 9in) and 1.98m Chris Mullen ( 6ft 6in) were specactular small forwards.

The USA team at the '96 Olympics in Atlanta did have three seven-footers in 2.13m Hakeem Olajuwon (7ft), 2.16m Shaquille O'Neal (7ft 1in) and David Robinson.

None played small forward, however. Wembanyama's versatility may be in the future what separate the hypothetical french trio from regular national team frontcourt.

Malone, Barkley, Pippen and the 2.03m Grant Hill (6ft 8in) were also on that roster.

Shaquille O'Neal (above), David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon were seven-footers in the '96 USA team

The Spanish frontcourt in its heyday the past two decades could have 2.16 m Pau (7ft 1in) and 2.11m Marc Gasol (6ft 11in), 2.06m Jorge Garbajosa (6ft 9in), 2.11m Serge Ibaka (6ft 11in), 2.04m Felipe Reyes (6ft 8in) and 1.96m Rudy Fernandez  (6ft 5in).

Fernandez's ball-hawking and gambling defense, especially, always changed games in Spain's favor and still does, in fact.

At 37 years of age, he was one of the best defenders at this past summer's EuroBasket in Berlin. Wembanyama is much taller, but Fernandez was, and remains an absolute terror on defense. His trophy cabinet is full.

At the FIBA EuroBasket 1989 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia's frontcourt had awesome talent. On that roster was 2.11m Dino Radja (6ft 11in), 2.16m Vlade Divac (7ft 1in), 2.18m Stojan Vrankovic (7ft 2in) and 2.08m Toni Kukoc (6ft 11).

They blew out every opponent. 

It'll be interesting to see how the French triumvirate compares to other dominant frontcourts of the past.

There was something that unsettled French fans recently, however, the fact that Embiid obtained his US passport.

Is that something for France to worry about, that he might want to play for the Americans, as the legendary Nigerian-born Olajuwon once did?

According to France national team general manager Boris Diaw, this isn't anything to fret over.

"American nationality was something he committed for quite some time, more for facilities of life in the United States," Diaw said in leparisien.fr.