Pascal Siakam has waited his whole life for this opportunity. The young rising star for the Toronto Raptors is playing in his first NBA Finals, and rising to the big stage. Siakam put up 32 points and eight rebounds, carrying the Raptors to the franchise’s inaugural victory in the NBA Finals.
Amidst the excitement across Canada, the Raptors forward is playing for a greater purpose. For Siakam, every chance he gets to play basketball is an opportunity he does not take for granted.
“Every night that I go out there, I have a bigger purpose, and I play for something greater than just basketball,” said Siakam after the 118-109 Raptors victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Siakam Battles Adversity of Father’s Death
Pascal Siakam was born in Cameroon. Youngest of four brothers, Siakam initially did not have an interest in basketball. He was poised to become a priest, cherry-picked from an early age to embrace the Catholic values of his family.
Pascal was particularly close to his Father, Tchamo, who worked at a local transit company. It was Tchamo who encouraged his son to go pursue his dreams of playing basketball in the United States. While playing at New Mexico State, Siakam would receive the unfortunate news of his Father’s passing in a car accident. A numbing reality for a youngster trying to play basketball while adjust to life away from his parents.
“It was definitely one of the toughest moments in my life, not being able
to go home for the funeral,” revealed Siakam.
While a breakable moment for some, Siakam used the death of his Father as motivation to become a perennial basketball star. The desire and drive to get better is what attracted Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri to draft Pascal with the 27th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
“Pascal wants to be a versatile player in this league who could do it all. He wants to be a star,” states Ujiri.
Siakam Has Performed Strongly for Toronto Raptors
The 2018-19 NBA season has demonstrated Pascal Siakam’s transcendent rise in stardom. Not only is he a physical defender, but Siakam is able to utilize his size to attack the basket in the post with ease. For the season, Siakam averaged 16.9 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists with game, on 54.9 percent shooting.
While Kawhi Leonard has claimed the spotlight as the Raptors’ premier superstar, Siakam has epitomized playoff toughness and tenacity. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with Kawhi being targeted defensively, Siakam took control offensively, putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds. There was a stretch in Game 1 of the NBA Finals where the Siakam went 15-for-15 from the field. Nick Nurse was quick to praise his big man, who has been consistently improving since last summer.
“He’s worked his tail off,” said Nurse after Game 1. “His work ethic and his mindset just keeps building for him.
The Ceiling is High for Raptors Big Man
Adverse moments shape the makeup of an individual. For Pascal Siakam, it made him a tougher, grounded human being.
In NBA history, the Finals came up North to Canada. While Siakam is grateful for the fan support, his purpose of playing is far greater. There was a day where a young kid from Africa would never have thought to go professional and play in the NBA. With the Toronto Raptors up 1-0 in the NBA Finals, Siakam is focused on being a critical impetus to help his team win. At the same time, honouring his Father’s legacy and the country of Cameroon.
“I have a lot of support from my fellow Cameroonians and just Africa
in general,” says Siakam. “When my Dad died, it was a turning point in my life, just going through that type of adversity. It definitely made me the
person I am today.”