The NBA has never been more year-round than it is in 2023. The interest in the sport remains at an all-time high as it enters NBA2K24 Summer League from Las Vegas. ESPN will exclusively televise the summer league debut game of Victor Wembanyama – the French basketball sensation who was selected number one in the 2023 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs square off with the Charlotte Hornets at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.
ESPN NBA host and reporter Cassidy Hubbarth is working her sixth summer league event, and she has been front and center on ESPN’s coverage for high profile debuts in the past. Hubbarth served as sideline reporter for the debuts of both Lonzo Ball in 2017 and Zion Williamson in 2019. Next up, she has Wemby. As Hubbarth prepares for the high-profile assignment, she took time to chat with Front Row.
How do you compare the attention Victor Wembanyama is receiving leading into his summer league debut with that of Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson in years’ past?
The biggest distinction is that we have been talking about Victor playing in the NBA since the start of the 2022-2023 NBA season. The anticipation of his debut has been a marathon, slow, but very steady. The attention around Lonzo and Zion‘s debuts felt more like mad sprints going 100mph into Las Vegas. I feel like the attention around Lonzo surrounding his family, his shoe deal and social media presence was underestimated. In 2019, when Zion made his debut, it was more commonplace to have large crowds fill Thomas and Mack Center and Zion fed into it with his pregame dunks.
Hubbarth with Lonzo Ball at his 2017 NBA Summer League debut
Do you prepare differently for a high-profile debut like Lonzo, Zion and Wemby and how so?
Not typically. I am just trying to do as much background research as possible. That’s also how I approach a regular season game. Thankfully given how much attention Victor has gotten over the last year, it gives me a lot of information to work with heading into this first game. The hope is I can also speak with him at shootaround before Friday’s game to get the freshest angle on how he’s approaching his debut.
Hubbarth interviews Williams during his NBA Summer League debut in 2019
What does it say about the year-round interest in the NBA that once again, in early July, the sports world is focused on an incoming star like Victor?
It shows how much summer league as an event has grown. I’ve been fortunate to cover this event for the last six years, not including 2020, and to see the interest level, not just by media, but by fans and star players has been fun to witness. The fact that LeBron James and Stephen Curry have made it a routine to show up and watch games in Las Vegas, and hearing the roar of the crowd when those players walk in, feels like a celebration of the league.