Cameroon’s Siakam overcame dad’s death to live NBA dream
by Jim SLATER
Pascal Siakam achieved his late dad’s dream of playing in the NBA. Now every game the Cameroonian forward plays for the Toronto Raptors is dedicated to his father’s memory.
Siakam scored a career playoff high 32 points to power the Raptors over the defending champion Golden State Warriors 118-109 in Thursday’s opener of the NBA Finals then promptly admitted, “I’m just doing it for my dad.”
Half a day later, the 25-year-old African star was still thinking of his father, Tchamo Siakam, who died from injuries in a 2014 auto accident before seeing his youngest of four sons realize the family dream.
“For me it’s bigger than basketball and every night I go out there, I have a bigger purpose and I play for something bigger than just basketball,” Siakam said. “That’s what make it special that every night I’m out there, no matter the result, no matter how many points I score, I’m playing for something bigger than myself.”
Siakam had three older brothers who played major US college basketball but Pascal’s interest in the sport only came in his teens ahead of his big break being discovered in an African Basketball Without Borders camp.
He wound up at New Mexico State when his father died and his mother, Victorie, pushed him not to return home for a funeral but keep working on making his dad’s dream a reality.
“In terms of adversity, I went through something that I considered the hardest moment of my life when my dad passed away,” Siakam said. “I was in college and just away from my family. Thank God I had the support of my teammates and coaches in college that helped me go through it.
“But it was definitely one of the toughest moments in my life, and not being able to go home for the funeral and all that. So it was definitely a moment where it kind of tested me as a man, just being able to go through that and using that as a motivation, something that’s going to push me to do better things for my family, for myself, for my dad.
“It was a turning point in my life, just going through that type of adversity. It definitely made me the person I am today.”
Siakam, taken 27th by the Raptors in the 2017 NBA Draft, is the person who writes “R.I.P. Dad” on his shoes during the NBA playoffs and one who wonders if his father would be proud to see all that he has achieved, three wins from becoming an NBA champion.
“It’s a question I ask myself every single day and I know I wish I had the answer,” Siakam said. “I know people always tell me that I know he’s proud of you, and I kind of want to hear it from his mouth and I think it would be really cool.”
– ‘A burning desire’ –
It’s Siakam’s work ethic that amazes Toronto coach Nick Nurse, having watched him train harder to become not only an NBA player, but a threat to become among the very best, his 32 points serving notice the best is yet to come.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before. That’s a pretty big stage for a guy to put that kind of performance on,” Nurse said.
“He has a big engine with lots of energy that enables him to play with a certain speed, athleticism and enables him to work very hard every single day.
“Give the kid the credit. He has worked his tail off. He has really got a burning desire to be a very good player in this league.”
Siakam, whose lanky frame and impressive speed make his a challenge for any defender, is constantly looking for ways to improve.
“I’ve learned a lot and I know I have a lot to learn,” Siakam said. “That’s one of the advantages for me. I know I have so much to learn. I have to grow. Just try to be a little bit smarter and learn something every night.”
© Agence France-Presse