Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembayanama: Can France’s defending duo be the bedrock of a dream team for Paris 2024?

Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembayanama: Can France’s defending duo be the bedrock of a dream team for Paris 2024?

The revival of Rudy Gobert

“Most fans don’t find defence exciting, but that’s OK. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to win,” Gobert said exclusively to last summer at a France training camp.

Perhaps no one knows better than Gobert about the thankless task often assumed by a defender. Being a world-class rim protector can be lonely on a stage where dunks and three-point shots are clipped up and shared with a frenzy.

But his words also speak to an instinct that France, come the Games in the summer, will be depending on if they are to upgrade from their silver in Japan three years ago.

Les Bleus rocked the basketball world order when they defeated Team USA in the group stage at Tokyo 2020. The two teams later met in the final, and while the French team wasn’t able to do the deed a second time, they had come closer than ever before.

Since then things have shifted. International basketball and the rise of players outside of the USA continue to grow at a rapid pace. All three finalists for the NBA’s coveted MVP award are all foreign to American shores and this year’s draft is expected to be dominated by imports.

France’s form has also dipped. A shocking early departure from the FIBA World Cup last summer brought the French crashing back down to earth.

Though not the only top-tier team that limped away from the tournament co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, the Olympic hosts were undoubtedly bruised by the encounter. Questions began to rage about their readiness for the Games.

That Gobert returned to the NBA for his second season with the Timberwolves and has put on a show worthy of a DPOY finalist suggests that he was serious about improving when it came to Olympic contention. And even as the playoffs continue, Paris 2024 is never far from his thoughts.

He recently revealed he has applied to be the French flag bearer in the Opening Ceremony.

“Of course, I’m applying, I’ve always dreamed of it, and it would be an incredible honour,” he told Le Monde. “I have always devoted myself to the French team and this would be a new way to represent the country.”

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