Photo Credit: Jack Arent/Getty Images
Capitalizing on nearly every opportunity he has been tasked with, the rise of Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is as astonishing as it is unlikely. His journey on the Raptors, which includes a rapid ascent up the team’s lineup and an NBA Championship, seems all too good to be true.
Since being drafted in the first round, 27th overall by Masai Ujiri and the Toronto Raptors in the 2016 draft, Siakam has improved each season with the team. Displaying a tremendous amount of resilience, commitment and confidence, Siakam is now a key player in his fifth year with the Raptors.Siakam has been developing that confidence over his years in the NBA after he initially dreamed of playing professional soccer.
While averaging only 7.3 points per game in the 2017-18 season and struggling with his shot, “Spicy P” was able to raise his totals to nearly 17 points and 7 rebounds a game the following season, also improving his overall field goal percentage and perimeter shooting, which added to his overall athleticism and sharpened his game. Siakam was named Most Improved Player in the NBA that following season, as he was a pivotal part of the Raptors championship run.
Siakam’s rise is remarkable. Being one of only five players born in Cameroon to have ever played in the NBA, he did not play organized basketball until he was almost 18 years old. While his three older brothers all received D1 scholarships to play basketball in the United States, Siakam was noticed by fellow Cameroon native and NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute. He brought Siakam into his camp when he was around 15.
Siakam pracitced and was then selected to attend the “Basketball Without Borders,” camp in South Africa, the same year that Joel Embiid attended. Raptors General Manager, Masai Ujiri was able to set his eyes on the 6’9 power forward.
Under Mbah a Moute’s mentorship and training, Siakam was able to learn the basics of basketball and start developing his skills. His intense work ethic and dedication led Siakam to the United States, where he was able to improve his skills and prepare for competitive basketball after New Mexico State offered him a scholarship.
Playing rather unfazed in a level of competition that Siakam had never faced before, he was able to make a name for himself in college, winning the conference player of the year award his final season. One of the hardest challenges in the journey was the adversity Siakam dealt with after his father passed away in 2014. Siakam had a special bond with his father, saying that his decision to travel to the United States and pursue an NBA career was largely devoted to his father.
“I would never go against his wishes… there isn’t a better man I’ve known in my life.,” Siakam told ESPN in an interview.
With everything Siakam has encountered throughout his career, he was able to persevere, and honoured his father with a message on his shoe throughout the playoffs that season.
The 43 on his jersey holds special meaning, as the 4 represents Siakam’s father and three brothers and the 3 represents his mother and two sisters.
Having not played the sport until his late-teens, for context, was impressive due to those such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. They were in the NBA at the age of 18, which shows how Pascal Siakam has made an incredible ascent in just eight years. After all he accomplished, Siakam was able to earn his much deserved payday with a four-year contract extension days before the 2019 season. An extension worth $130 million over the duration of the four seasons.
The journey for Siakam has been nothing short of remarkable! Given his play and consistent improvement, “Spicy P” should remain a cornerstone for the Raptors franchise for a long time coming.