Los Angeles – His demonstration in the first game of the 2019 final against Golden State on Thursday earned him to be compared to legends of the NBA, but Pascal Siakam has only one hero, his father, who never saw his dream come true.
With 32 points and an impressive 14 of 17 shooting in the victory of Toronto (118-109), the Cameroonian Raptors winger joined in a very closed club Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He is only the seventh player in history to score more than 30 points with over 80% shooting success in an NBA finals game.
During this match N.1 where he nauseated the Warriors, double NBA champions in title and great favorites to their own succession, Siakam managed eleven consecutive shots.
Never seen at this stage of the competition during the last twenty seasons: the "record"was until then eight consecutive baskets, co-held among others by LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
At 25, Siakam, the first Cameroonian to play in an NBA final, made a sensational debut in the big leagues, but he does not derive any personal pride.
He was quick to dedicate his exceptional match to Africa and especially to his father, who died suddenly in 2014 following a road accident in Cameroon.
"Every day, I wonder what my father would say if he saw what I accomplished. People tell me all the time that he would be proud of me, but I would have liked to hear it from his mouth"he explained.
– "Bigger than basketball"-
"For me, as I often say, what I live beyond the basketball. Every game night, I have a bigger goal and I play for something bigger than basketball", continued the native of Douala.
His career and ambition are just like his talent: extraordinary.
Raised in a practicing Catholic family, he experienced the rigors of the seminary, where he reluctantly spent part of his adolescence.
He was passionate about football, to the dismay of his father Tchamo, a basketball enthusiast who transmitted the virus to Pascal's three older brothers.
But the cadet ends up getting into basketball. He is immediately spotted during an internship organized in 2011 in Cameroon by his compatriot Luc Mbah a Moute, who plays in the NBA since 2008.
He left Cameroon in 2013, first for a high school in Texas, before joining the University of New Mexico.
It is there that he learns of the death of his father and that he must give up to return to Cameroon to attend the funeral, "the hardest decision of (his) life", he has since confessed.
Drafted in 2016 by Toronto, he first had to prove himself in the G-League, the reserve team championship of NBA franchises, before picking up playing time last season and explode this season.
– "I continue to learn"-
"It's just because I play more often and longer. As I started playing basketball late, there are still plenty of things that I continue to learn", he explained the day before the first game of the final.
Toronto President Masai Ujiri, who grew up in Nigeria and met Siakam, still a teenager, on an internship in South Africa, predicted a bright future for him.
"He's an incredible person (…) He does not want to be one of those African players who are presented only as blockers, defenders or rebounders. He wants to be a star and a player capable of playing in all registers, and he does all he needs to"Ujiri stressed.
It is generally agreed that Siakam is already assured of winning the trophy of "player with the most progress".
A distinction he might well eclipse with the title of best player in the 2019 final if Toronto ends the reign of Golden State.
It takes the Raptors and Siakam three more wins, starting Sunday at home, to get closer to this other dream.