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Victor Wembanyama Buzz has San Antonio businesses eager to cash in – UnlistedNews

Mark Burnett can’t get Victor Wembanyama out of his mind. Well, he could, but it would be like sticking a knife into the “Mona Lisa.”

Burnett, a San Antonio Spurs superfan, had Joe Barajas, a well-known local barber, cut Wembanyama’s image off the side of his head a little over a week ago. He, like almost everyone else in the basketball world, expected the Spurs to select Wembanyama No. 1 overall in the NBA draft on Thursday.

“I wanted to show Victor something special, that the city of San Antonio already loves him,” Burnett said at an all-night party at the Spurs’ home stadium moments before San Antonio selected Wembanyama, who had shared a photo of Burnett on his Instagram account.

Fanatic? Maybe. But also eminently reasonable, and not only because of the immense promise of Wembanyama, a 19-year-old French basketball star. As San Antonio’s only major professional sports franchise, the Spurs are the beating heart of the seventh-largest city in the United States.

“I want to do the best that I can in all aspects of the job,” Wembanyama said during his introductory news conference Saturday in San Antonio. “The fans have been the best at their job. I can only hope to be at his level.”

That magic, however, has recently disappeared in River City. The Spurs haven’t been to the playoffs in the past four seasons; they had done it every year since 1997, winning five championships. A miserable 2022-23 season, in which they tied for the worst record in the Western Conference, gave them a silver lining: a tie for the best odds to receive the first pick in the draft. Now they have Wembanyama.

“It’s going to be a big rebound for the economy,” said Aaron Peña, who owns two bars in San Antonio and plans to open another in two weeks. “We are already planning to host not just opening parties, but every Spurs game. It’s going to be a party.”

For some entrepreneurs, the party has already begun. Chip Ingram owns Roo Pub, an Australian-themed bar inspired by former Australian Spurs guard Patty Mills. Ingram gathered a large crowd at his pub on May 16 after announcing that if Spurs won the lottery that night, he would pick up the tab. He might have cost him a pretty penny that night, as the Spurs won, but Ingram said the spotlight made it worth it.

Ingram has upgraded his menu with a “Wemby Burger” that includes foie gras and French onion strips. After a $1 promotional deal on draft night, the burger is now $21.50, a nod to Spurs legends Tim Duncan, who wore number 21, and David Robinson, who wore number 50. They they were also the number 1 picks.

Economic research casts some doubt on the potential strength of the Wembanyama effect in San Antonio. TO paper 2017 by Daniel Shoag of Harvard University and Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute found that LeBron James’ return to Cleveland in 2014 increased the number of restaurants and other places to eat and drink near Cavaliers Stadium. But that wasn’t the case in Miami when James joined the Heat in 2010, though it had a significant effect on employment near arenas in both cities. economists they have argued for a long time that professional sports franchises and their stadiums don’t do much to help local economies.

“I think people are going to be interested in the Spurs no matter what, but this just gives more attention to San Antonio,” said Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who was also the secretary of housing and urban development during the presidency. of Barack Obama. Obama “It gives the city a boost in terms of how much it’s in the national spotlight. It raises the profile and visibility of the city among the people, and that is always good for business.”

Shea Serrano, an author and television writer from San Antonio, never passes up an opportunity to talk about her beloved Spurs. He said that he “lost it” when the Spurs won the lottery.

“It felt in the city at the time like we had won another championship,” he said.

Brandon Gayle, the Spurs’ chief operating officer, said the team had seen a sharp increase in demand for season tickets, and from a younger, more diverse demographic than usual. San Antonio’s population is approximately 66 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race and 23 percent white alone, with less than 10 percent of residents identifying as Asian or Black/African American. according to the US Census Bureau.. Gayle said the Spurs wanted to expand their reach to Mexico and Austin, Texas, where the team has played several games in recent seasons.

From the opening of the Spurs’ stadium, the AT&T Center, before the 2002-3 season through the 2018-19 season, the last time the team made the playoffs, San Antonio always ranked in the top half of attendance. of the NBA. They were in the bottom five in the past two seasons.

Carly Tovar represents the second generation of a three-generation Spurs family. He attended the draft night party with his young son, Mario Calderón, and his father, Ralph Tovar, who began cheering for the Spurs when the team moved from Dallas in the 1970s. The Spurs won their first title in 1999, when Carly was in high school. Despite his father’s protests, he went downtown to join in the celebration, where fans walked down the freeway, honking their car horns in glee and soaking in the victory over the Knicks.

“I came up with David Robinson, Avery Johnson, and I got to appreciate the next generation with Duncan and Robinson,” Carly said. “So now we can see that happen for the third time.” She motioned to her son.

Ralph agreed. “It’s good for our city,” he said. “It has what we call the light, the fire.”

The renewed energy around the Spurs has visibly changed San Antonio, in the form of impressive tributes to Wembanyama from local artists. Oscar Alvarado, a tile mosaic artist who traces his family roots to San Antonio for nearly 300 years, built an 18-foot-tall Wembanyama cutout out of steel and plywood. Colton Valentine created a larger-than-life mural of Wembanyama patting two basketballs outside a bar in the artsy Southtown neighborhood, earning a visit from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. And Nik Soupe was perhaps the boldest of them all: He finished a mural of Wembanyama in a Spurs jersey almost two months before the draft lottery.

Several fans said Wembanyama’s ability to generate a palpable buzz was decidedly “not Spurs”. Duncan was notoriously quiet and rarely did interviews or commercials, much like Kawhi Leonard, who helped the Spurs win their most recent championship, in 2014.

But so far, Wembanyama has reveled in the spotlight. He beamed in a video on Instagram as a horde of fans greeted him after landing in San Antonio on Friday.

“You should expect legions of old ladies praying in Catholic churches for the Spurs to win,” Castro said, “and for people to celebrate their success like a member of their family. That’s the level of enthusiasm and how personal a lot of people take it there.”


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcus
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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