The NBA is a star-driven league at its best when rivalries fuel it: Magic vs. Bird, Curry vs. LeBron in four straight finals, Jordan vs. Bad Boy Pistons (then later Stockton/Malone).
Victor Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren is the rivalry that could fuel the NBA for the next decade, and you could feel it on Wednesday night in a Thunder 140-114 win over the Spurs.
In a lot of ways, Wednesday’s game was an encapsulation of their rookie seasons (and Rookie of the Year campaigns) — Wembanyama was the better player (24 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) and looks the better prospect, but Holmgren (17 points, nine rebounds, three blocks) fits perfectly in his role with a much better, deeper Thunder team and contributes to them winning.
What’s fun is it’s a little bit nasty between them — Wembanyama is driving through Holmgren and staring him down, Holmgren talking trash after nailing a 3. It’s personal, like a good rivalry should be.
While the individual rivalry is there, the team one is still a work in progress — the Spurs are way behind the development curve of the Thunder. Oklahoma City has a legitimate MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (32 points, 10 assists in the OKC win) and quality players around him like Jalen Williams, Lu Dort and more. Devin Vassell is the second-best player on the Spurs, would he be the the fifth-best player in Oklahoma City? The sixth?
But this rivalry is becoming must-watch in their rookie year, and if these players and teams continue on their trajectory, this could be the rivalry that drives the NBA for the next decade. It’s that good.