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Victor Wembanyama Has San Antonio Businesses Eager to Cash In

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Mark Burnett can’t get Victor Wenbanyama out of his mind. Well, it is possible, but it would be like pointing a knife at the Mona Lisa.

Barnett, a San Antonio Spurs superfan, had a well-known local barber, Joe Barajas, cut a caricature of Wenbanyama on the side of his head about a week ago. Like most people in basketball, he expected the Spurs to select Wenbanyama with the first overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

“I wanted to show Victor something special: the city of San Antonio already loves him,” Barnett said at a draft night party at the Spurs’ home arena. That was right before San Antonio actually nominated Wenbanyama. shared a photo of Burnett on his Instagram account.

fanatical? perhaps. But it’s also very reasonable, and not just because of the big future of 19-year-old French basketball star Wenbanyama. San Antonio’s only major professional sports franchise, the Spurs, is the heart of his seventh-largest city in the United States.

“I want to do my best in every aspect of my job,” Wenbanyama said at a company joining press conference in San Antonio on Saturday. “The fans gave their best in their work. I can only hope that we reach their level.”

But that magic has recently gone missing in River City. The Spurs have not made the playoffs in the last four seasons. They have competed every year since 1997 and have won five championships. The 2022-23 season was a dismal one, tied for worst in the Western Conference, but there are signs of hope, tied for best odds for the No. 1 draft pick. Now we have Wenbanyama.

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

For some executives, the party has already started. Chip Ingram runs Lou Pub, an Australian-themed bar inspired by Australian former Spurs guard Patty Mills. Ingram drew a large crowd to his pub on May 16 after announcing that the Spurs would win the pick if they won the draft lottery that night. Ingram said he may have spent a lot of money on the night because the Spurs won, but the spotlight was more than worth it.

Ingram has revamped the menu with a “Wemby Burger” that includes foie gras and French onion strings. After signing a $1 promotional deal on draft night, the burger is now priced at $21.50. It’s named after Spurs legends Tim Duncan, number 21, and David Robinson, number 50. They were also the #1 picks.

Economic research raises some questions about the potential strength of the Wenbanyama effect in San Antonio.a 2017 paper LeBron James’ return to Cleveland in 2014 led to an increase in the number of restaurants and other eateries near the Cavaliers’ arena, according to a study by Daniel Shoag of Harvard University and Stan Voeger of the American Enterprise Institute. number has increased. But when James joined the Heat in 2010, he made a big impact on near-arena hiring in both cities, which wasn’t the case in Miami.economist have long debated Professional sports franchises and their stadiums not very useful local economy.

“I think people will go crazy for the Spurs no matter what, but this will only bring more attention to San Antonio,” said former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, who also served as secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack. said Mr. Mr. Obama. “It gives the city a boost in terms of the national attention it has.

San Antonio-born author and television writer Shea Serrano never misses an opportunity to talk about her beloved Spurs. He said he “lost his mind” when the Spurs won the draft lottery.

“In that moment, it felt like I had won again in the city,” he said.

Spurs chief operating officer Brandon Gale said the team has seen a sharp increase in demand for season tickets, with demand coming from a younger and more diverse demographic than usual. San Antonio’s population is approximately 66 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race, 23 percent white only, and less than 10 percent of residents who identify as Asian or Black/African American. According to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gale said the Spurs want to expand further to Mexico and Austin, Texas, and have played some games there in recent seasons.

From the 2018-19 season, when the AT&T Center, the Spurs arena, opened before the 2002-3 season, to the 2018-19 season, when the team last made the playoffs, San Antonio consistently ranked in the top half of NBA attendance figures. wasFinished in the bottom five the last two seasons

Karlie Tovar is the second representative of three generations of the Spurs family. She attended the draft night party with her young son Mario Calderon and her father Ralph Tovar, who began rooting for the Spurs when they moved from Dallas in the 1970s. The Spurs won her first title in 1999 when Curry was in high school. Over her father’s protests, she went downtown to join the celebration, where fans walked the freeway, honked their car horns and reveled in her victory over the Knicks.

“I came up with David Robinson, Avery Johnson. Duncan and Robinson helped me understand the next generation,” Carly said. “So now we’re going to see it happen for the third time,” she gestured to her son.

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

The new energy around the Spurs has visibly transformed San Antonio in the form of a memorable Wenbanyama tribute by a local artist. A tile that traces the family’s San Antonio roots back nearly 300 years, his mosaic artist Oscar his Alvarado created the 18-foot-tall Wenbanyama cutout in steel and plywood. Colton Valentine has created a life-size mural of Wenbanyama holding two basketballs outside a bar in Southtown’s artsy district following a visit from Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. And Nick Soup was probably the boldest of them all. He completed a mural of Wenbanyama in a Spurs jersey almost two months before the draft draw.

Some fans said Wenbanyama’s ability to create an overt topic was clearly “un-Spurs-like”. Duncan, like Kawhi Leonard, who helped the Spurs to their most recent championship in 2014, was particularly quiet, rarely appearing in interviews or commercials.

But so far, Wenbanyama has been in the spotlight. After arriving in San Antonio on Friday, he smiled broadly as he posted the video to Instagram as a crowd of fans greeted him.

“He should expect a lot of little old ladies at the Catholic Church praying for the Spurs to win,” Castro said. That’s the level of enthusiasm and how personal many people take it. ”

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