Pascal Siakam: NBA champion on behalf of the father, Cameroon and Africa

Pascal Siakam: NBA champion on behalf of the father, Cameroon and Africa

16 Jun 2019 | BASKETBALL | 0 comments

The trigger: a deceased dad, who dreamed of one of his four sons becoming a professional basketball player. For a rise to the NBA title, in which he was a major player, especially on Thursday night. When you consider he is only 25 years old and only started basketball at the age of 16, it’s something to be amazed at about the Raptors’ strong wingers journey.

From our correspondent, in Toronto and Oakland

The image is magical: a kid from Douala carrying the Cameroonian flag on his shoulders, preparing to receive the NBA trophy. It has already toured the planet, as have the decisive actions of the player from Toronto, author of the best performance in Game 1 of the Finals (32 points at 82% including 2/3 at three points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists , 2 blocks and 1 interception), that he also concluded with a very decisive basket in the last seconds of Game 6 , while the Warriors had returned to 1 small point for farewell in their historic and mythical hall

This vision, Pascal Siakam surely did not have it, when on the eve of his first NCAA season his eyes were drowned in tears, at the news of the death of his father, Tchamo, following a car accident and four days of hospitalization that could not save his life. To avoid losing his new visa to the United States, during the procedure, the youngest son had to give up returning for the funeral. Instead, he wrote “RIP Dad” on his shoes. A ritual that he has continued ever since, when the former resident of the Saint André minor seminary in Bafia has still not returned to the country (which will not be long now). Above all, there was a click. “It was inevitably a psychological turning point. It was hard, but playing basketball, that’s what he really wanted me to do, ”he told us during the season, recalling the American scholarships obtained before him by his three older brothers, real basketball freaks, when he did not get caught up in the game until much later. “For me, to be able to realize his dream, for him, for the whole family, it’s really important,” he told us in the locker room of the Philadelphia Sixers, before facing his compatriot Joel Embiid, who also wears Cameroon and Africa on the highest stage of world basketball.

A meteoric rise, but not without pitfalls

An objective message repeated throughout these play-offs, joined by acts now immortal and with historic consequences on the Continent and in the North American league. But while the ascent may seem almost dazzling to those who told us that they considered themselves “destined”, it was not without its pitfalls. “Honestly, when I saw him at Basketball Without Borders in 2012, I couldn’t have told you he would become an NBA player,” Masai Ujiri told ESPN in December. The Nigerian president of the Raptors franchise drafted him at age 22 in 2016. His director of international scouting, South African Patrick Engelbrecht, had meanwhile kept his expert eye on the kid who passed through God’s Academy high school in Lewisville. , Texas, then training in the Los Angeles ghettos to earn a spot on an NCAA team. An entry was allowed by coach Marvin Menzies in New Mexico State, who supported him physically and mentally during his potentially traumatic episode, when he himself had lost his dad two years earlier.

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The first NBA game he then saw in person was quite simply the first he attended! And while he was a quick start after Jared Sullinger’s injury, the cold shower fell a bit later, when he was sent to the D-league (now G-League). “It was my lowest point professionally, but I’m built to get through those kinds of times,” “Spicy P” recalled this year, a nickname referring to his exuberant and exciting game. He therefore won the title of the development league in 2017 with his teammates in the champion team Fred Van Vleet (also hero of the finals) and the essential Norman Powell, winning in passing the trophy of MVP of the minor championship. .

From the “Bench Mob” to the role of a major player, driven by the Africanity and cultural diversity of the Raptors and an unstoppable intensity

In the following year, he was one of the major elements of the “Bench Mob”, those substitutes who had brought enormous energy to the Raptors by then. Then Ujiri blew up this promising version, sacking the coach of the year Dwane Casey and recruiting – at the expense of All-Star DeMar DeRozan and despite the affection that the fan base and leader Kyle Lowry had for him – Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, despite his almost blank season in 2017-18, potentially suicidal bet today rewarded with the NBA trophies and MVP of the ex-Spur finals, guaranteeing that of “Executive of the Year” to the one already winner in 2013. Novice coach Nick Nurse (also potentially holder of the annual award for coaches at the end of the month) quickly toured his squad during their summer preparations. “I understood immediately that Pascal would become a major element of our season”, assured us the technician this winter, impressed by his inexhaustible intensity.

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The African dimension of the team was not diminished, and encouraged it too, in its own words. It starts from Ujiri, via the staff: the director of international scouting, Patrick Engelbrecht, is therefore South African, the assistant-coach Patrick Mutombo is Congolese, the players Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby are respectively Congolese-Spanish and British-Nigerian. “This is also what carried me, this familiarity, this proximity of the courses with some, this ability to exchange on our experiences, in French in particular, and to share them with all the cultural diversity of this team (the pivot Marc Gasol is Spanish, Italian assistant coach Sergio Scariolo was Spain coach from 2009 to 2012 and again since 2015, physiotherapist Alex McKechnie is Scottish …), we are like Toronto and Canada, multi -ethnic, which created this communion with our fans, ”adds the one recruited only at the 27 th position.

“Winning this trophy for Toronto, for Canada, for Africa, for Cameroon, there is nothing above that …”

Pascal Siakam

Even more so than the MIP trophy for best individual progression, for which he was not only one of the very first favorites – almost guaranteed before the emergence of the Nets and D’Angelo Russell after the New Year, but that he s ‘is very surely re-awarded definitively through these play-offs and finals – or even the quasi-All Star status acquired in the meantime (of which he was partly deprived to precisely reward Russell and Brooklyn, but which he should obtain next season), we quickly knew that the chances of the NBA title would fall largely on the slender shoulders of the winger / winger, with both offensive and defensive qualities, a real lieutenant in the same way, or often more, than the historic Kyle Lowry setting. Pascal Siakam cared little for individual concerns himself, despite the questions that came up almost daily, recalling much higher collective objectives, and his desire to continue an almost incredible individual progress. Clichés in the world of athletes? However, these take on their full meaning when they combine with victory. This energetic workaholic is no exception.

Beyond the sporting result, moreover: “Winning this NBA title for the team, for Toronto, for Canada, for Africa, for Cameroon, there is nothing above that …”, declared the 2m06 fellow at a press conference, dripping with champagne and still wearing the banner in Pan-African colours, adorned with a star reminiscent of the “star” he himself has become. No, nothing can get past that. And yet, this is really just the start. For him, for his country of origin, for the African continent, for his country and his adopted city, for the Raptors… And surely for the NBA. Pioneers Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo can be proud of. One of their heirs has just been confirmed.

Ecrit par le Figaro

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They are the pride of Cameroon

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