Most people that follow the NBA know of Pascal Siakam, but they’re still relatively unfamiliar with with his work as a whole. He’s a mystery man, dubbed “Spicy-P”, who completely overhauled his game and is a frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Apparently, after dropping 32 points on 14-17 shooting in his first NBA Finals game ever, he’s also immune to pressure. Postgame he and Scott Van Pelt had a telling exchange when SVP asked the young forward how he was able to do what he did:
PS: “For me it’s just, going out there, no pressure, play my game, and using whatever the defense is giving me, and just play.”
SVP: “Ok, but you just said no pressure. Like, this is the highest stage the game provides, against the reigning champs, with your city absolutely out of it’s mind. So how are you able to take a situation that would seem to be the most pressure, and totally eliminate it? What’s the secret?”
PS: “For me, I play for a bigger purpose, just you know, playing for my Dad.”
Siakam’s father, Tchamo, was killed in a brutal car accident in October of 2014. Siakam was not able to attend the funeral due to waiting for the issuance of a new US visa. Tchamo also was unable to see his son reach his ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. To this day, it pains Siakam, and ever since he’s vowed that everything he does from here on out is for his father.
“I hope he’s proud”, Siakam said in his postgame interview as he calmly fielded questions from a room of reporters. These same reporters were awestruck as they couldn’t even believe their eyes as just an hour ago he willed the Raptors to their first NBA Finals victory in the franchise’s 24 year history. If you haven’t seen the highlights yet, he was absolutely phenomenal. For good measure, he did most of this matched up with one of the best to ever do it on the defensive end, Draymond Green.
All of this seems pretty surreal when you give it some thought. Just under 10 years ago Siakam was in his home country of Cameroon training to be a priest. He trained until the age of 15, didn’t come to the US/pick up a basketball until he was 16, and came out of a school (New Mexico State) not known for it’s ability to pump out stars on the hardwood. While Siakam’s three older brothers all played Division-1 college basketball, none of the came close to even sniffing the NBA, let alone dominating on it’s biggest stage.
Siakam has shown all of us none of that matters and all that matters is what’s inside, what’s in your heart. It’s the old adage that “hard work pays off” and if you want something, just go get it. In his postgame press conference, Nick Nurse recalled a story from when they got bounced from the playoffs a couple of years ago. The very next day Siakam was in the gym with an eagerness to learn how to shoot.
Nurse said: “He was kinda like ‘listen, I need to learn how to shoot. I see in playoff basketball you better be able to shoot to be on the floor’… he took it and just absolutely ran with it, three times a day just trying to get that part of his game better.” Nurse then went onto say that whenever people would ask Siakam if he’s surprised by his growth he would say “No, this is always what I envisioned for myself.”
That mentality and drive is what’s propelled Siakam from a 14.3% three point shooter, all the way to a 36.9% three point shooter in just his third year in the league. It’s also put him on the radar as one of the brightest young stars the NBA has to offer. He’s put in the work to get to where he is today and it’s all paid off. No matter what happens the rest of these Finals one thing is for sure: Tchamo is looking down on his son with a smile beaming from ear to ear and couldn’t be any prouder.
As for Siakam and his Raptors, the rest of this series will be a grind. The Warriors are a tough bunch to handle, that might even be selling them short, and they’re even tougher to handle after a loss.
But hey, in the words of our friend Spicy-P: No pressure, just play your game.