As an international athlete, life can get pretty solitary. You find yourself in a country that has a different environment. You start to miss the aroma of your mother’s home cooked meals. The people you’ve grown up with that give you instant comfort are usually nowhere to be found. And if you’re from a big family like Toronto Raptor, Pascal Siakam, celebrating occasions like his 24th birthday yesterday, without your immediate family members can be a little bit lonely.
Siakam was born in Douala, Cameroon, a tropical metropolitan city on the continent of central Africa. Basketball was a family affair in the Siakam household. All three of his four older brothers played in North America before Pascal would set out on a similar journey.
As a child, Siakam enrolled in an NBA Basketball without Borders camp and was mentored by Luc Mbah a Moute. Pascal’s big man skills granted him the opportunity to go to God’s Academy Prep school in Texas, USA. He would later be recruited by New Mexico State University and then become the 27th pick in the NBA draft to the Toronto Raptors.
But it wasn’t just Mbah a Moute’s guidance and his brothers that gave him encouragement. Siakam’s number one fan and motivator was Siakam’s late father, Tchamo, who passed four years ago in a tragic road accident.
“He was a great man and just a genuine person. Just having him trying to make me a better person, I was so blessed to have him. He loved basketball and try to have one of his sons play in the NBA and that was something so big for him That’s why for me this moment is so special. It was a family dream.”
Siakam won’t be able to have the luxury of his father or all of his immediate family members witnessing his rise and progression in the NBA first hand, but he has developed another family and has found a camaraderie with his Toronto Raptors teammates.
If Pascal isn’t hailing DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry for following his Instagram page or enjoying warm meals and an overnight stay at Lowry’s Philadelphia mansion before games, he’s probably with his partner in crime Jakob Poeltl.
“I always have my brothers and stuff, and people I can talk to about basketball and other stuff, but it’s always good to have somebody on the team that you can also talk to.” - in the Toronto Star.
Give these two a reality show, one where “Ebony and Ivory” would definitely make the cut as their theme song. Whether it’s appearing in Google commercials, impersonating Jack Armstrong’s catchphrases, photobombing or crashing each other’s interviews, this sophomore tandem is constantly joined at the hip. Even on the court, they continue to have a symbiotic relationship
“I feel like together we make a pretty annoying offensive rebounding duo,” says Poeltl. “Pascal is the kind of guy who gets going early and with the way he runs up and down the court, carries the whole team with him.” - at Sportsnet
Celebrating another birthday in the tropical Cameroonian weather with loving immediate family members is out of the question this year. The Toronto Raptors will be facing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a few hours in a fight to remain number one in the Eastern Conference.
Let’s just hope for Siakam’s sake his teammates will be able to help deliver a win as a belated birthday gift.