Photo Credit: Chris Young/CP
Chris Boucher’s basketball life is a real Hoop Dreams story — one that not every kid growing up on the north side of Montreal can mimic.
In 2017, Boucher tore his ACL while playing at the University of Oregon and every team passed on the young Saint-Lucia born Canadian at the NBA Draft. He later signed as an undrafted free agent with the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2017-18 season.
Boucher played just one minute of one game during that season and was eventually waived by the Warriors after Golden State swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games on route to the team’s third NBA championship in four years.
Shortly afterwards, the Toronto Raptors came knocking and signed the Montreal native to a two-way contract and sent him to the NBA G League to play for the Raptors 905. Fast forward to the 2019 NBA Finals when Boucher’s new team was set to play his old squad and the defending NBA champs — the Warriors.
The Raptors were victorious and Boucher won his second consecutive title, becoming the first Canadian-born player to win a championship with the nation’s only NBA team.
But Boucher’s rise to a two-time champion began long before he saw his first NBA contract.
When he was 16 years old, Boucher’s parents ended their relationship. He had to decide to either live with his mother — who was in a relationship with someone he didn’t approve of — or his father — a very strict man who, originally, didn’t like the idea of Boucher playing basketball.
Boucher chose none of the above — he dropped out of high school and became homeless.
At that point in his life, Boucher was working part-time at a local Montreal restaurant as a cook and dishwasher, making less than $10 an hour. In an interview with VICE Sports, Boucher explained that the part of the city he was living in was less than desirable.
“There’s a lot of drugs, there’s a lot of crime, there’s a lot of gangs,” recalled Boucher.
At the time, he was also active at the local basketball courts and had just started playing the sport a year prior.
Despite his lack of experience, in 2012, Alma Academy — a Montreal basketball academy — took notice of the 6’8″ teenager when he played in a local tournament. One of the academy’s owners, Loic Rwigema, recruited Boucher — who was known on Facebook as “CJ Slick” at the time — via social media to play for the team.
In an interview with CBC, Loic recalled the phone call he had with his brother, Igor, describing the moment he knew Boucher had potential.
“I think I found someone special … a gem. This kid is not normal,” said Loic.
Boucher played for Alma Academy for one year before heading south of the border where he was recruited to New Mexico Junior College and then later Northwest College. After two years of JUCO experience, Boucher made his way to the NCAA and spent two years with the Oregon Ducks.
Boucher finished his career as a Duck as one of the most prolific players in the school’s history, earning several accolades:
- 189 blocks — second in school history
- 53.2% field goal percentage — fourth in school history
- 12.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game
- 825 career points
- Secured four of the top six Oregon single-game block records
- 2017 Pac-12 all-defensive team
His final season with the Ducks ended with an ACL tear during the 2017 Pac-12 tournament but that didn’t stop the young forward from achieving his dream. The setback was nothing compared to what he endured when he was a homeless 16 year-old riding the overnight bus in rough Montreal North.
He proved his doubters wrong after getting passed on in the 2017 draft, winning two straight Larry O’Brien Trophies and becoming a core part of the Raptors organization.
Boucher leads the team with 56 games played this season, is currently averaging 13.5 points per game and is second on the Raptors in field goal percentage — for players who have played in at least 30 games — at 51.7%.
From washing dishes to a $13.5 million contract, he’s a story all young Canadians can look to for inspiration and a promising piece of Toronto’s future.