International talent lifts Raptors to NBA Finals victory
by Jim SLATER
Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam celebrated his first NBA title with the flag of his homeland, Cameroon, draped over his shoulders and hopes to inspire the NBA dreams of young Africans.
Siakam is living that fantasy after the Raptors beat Golden State 114-110 to win the best-of-seven NBA Finals 4-2.
“It’s a dream,” Siakam said. “And it feels amazing to be able to realize your dreams.”
He also wants to set an example for any African teens who follow in his footsteps.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m here and I have this flag representing Cameroon and Africa,” the 25-year-old playmaker said. “As a kid I didn’t have the opportunity to dream about this moment. I didn’t think I could make it. I didn’t think this was possible.
“And I think a lot of kids don’t think it’s possible. Just me being able to be here and telling them that, ‘Hey, look at me, I was a little scrawny kid from Cameroon and I couldn’t even think about this moment but here I am as a champion.’
“And I just want to tell them that it’s possible and that if you believe in something, go out there and work hard for it. It might sound cliche, but it’s the truth. I’m the proof.”
Siakam attended a Basketball Without Borders camp and moved to the US at age 16. In 2016 he was taken by Toronto with the 27th pick in the NBA Draft.
With Congolese-born teammate Serge Ibaka talking to him for defensive plans in French and then to Marc Gasol in Spanish, having been Gasol’s teammate on Spain’s national squad, the global nature of the lineup brings something special to the dynamic of the only team from outside the United States to win an NBA crown.
“It meant a lot. Just having guys from different countries and speaking different languages, I think it got us closer together,” Siakam said.
“And you kind of have all those little kind of friendship with guys that you can speak the same language with, and from Spanish to French to English, different cultures. And I think kind of it represents Toronto in general, having that diversity.”
Gasol joined his brother Pau, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers win two NBA titles, as a champion.
“It means the world,” Gasol said. “I’ve been floating for the past couple hours. I’m thrilled. I’m very happy that we won. I’m so excited. It’s just a special, special feeling.
“I’m so happy we got it because everyone in Toronto and Canada deserves this, because they fought for it. I’m sure the Jurassic Park is going a little crazy.”
As Ibaka put it: “This is for Canada, baby. You should be proud.”