PARIS – Sitting on the court was Victor Wimpanyama, the 19-year-old Frenchman who is supposed to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, watching some of the players he will face next season.
And a young man with a French surname put on a great show.
Zack Lavigne – who said his grandfather was French – scored 30 points for the Chicago Bulls in a 126-108 win over the Detroit Pistons in the Paris basketball game on Thursday.
“Maybe the air here was just too good for me,” Lavigne said.
“It was a little disappointing not to be the winner tonight,” said Hayes.
That was the catalyst for several days of NBA celebration in France, after the two teams took part in clinics and touring events like visits to the Eiffel Tower, some upscale dinners and even a private performance by the Pistons at the Paris Opera House.
And while the game counted – Chicago (21-24) remained 10th in the Eastern Conference and what would be the last place to play with the win, while Detroit fell to 12-36, the second-worst mark in the NBA. It wasn’t an ordinary match in the middle of the season.
The list of celebrities included such NBA greats as Magic Johnson and Richard Hamilton Ben Wallace and Tony Parker. the legend of Bulls and a native French son in Joachim Noah; the rising star that everyone can’t stop talking about at Wimpanyama; WNBA players like Gabe Williams; Even Grammy winners and Formula One drivers.
“I don’t want to compare this to an All-Star game,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, “but it’s the closest thing to a European All-Star Game that we have.”
It was also a celebration of the continued strength of the international footprint in today’s NBA game. When the Bulls and Michael Jordan — along with P.J. Armstrong, then a Bulls guard and now an NBA agent who was at the game Thursday — played in Paris during the preseason in 1997, about 1 in 14 was born an nba player out of us
Now, that’s about 1 in 4.
“It’s special because we represent not only Detroit, but the NBA,” Pistons coach Duane Casey said. “And we’re trying to position the brand in a good place — in a place where basketball kicks in.”
Wimpanyama and his family made their way to the stadiums benches about 15 minutes before the alarm, immediately drawing a large crowd of people. When the camera caught him and he was shown to the French fans on the big screens inside the ring in the second quarter, he clapped and smiled, as his mother sat one row behind his right shoulder — the crowd positively gushed. joy.
Both teams are heading home on Friday.
“It’s great that people here in Paris are taking a good look at the NBA,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. “It makes you realize that the sport is closely followed all over the world. It was great. The place is sold out.”
The NBA has teams in the United States and Canada, of course, and this match in France pushed the list of countries the league has played or trained in this season to seven.
Mexico hosted a match between San Antonio and Miami last month. The Heat also held training camp in the Bahamas, and the league went to two other countries for preseason games—Golden State and Washington played twice in Japan, while Milwaukee and Atlanta played twice in the UAE.
It was a “home” game for the Pistons, even though Paris is about 4,000 miles away from Detroit. As the home team, the Pistons had to bring a large number of personnel on the trip—including some game operations personnel and members of the primary staff working the scoring table.
James Capers, Carl Lane and Natalie Sago were sent to officiate the match. The three referees played matches on Saturday in the United States, and then traveled to Paris.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.