July 20th, 2024

Siakam’s impact on Toronto remains after he is traded from Raptors to Indiana Pacers

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on January 19, 2024.

Toronto Raptors' Pascal Siakam plays during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. Siakam is no longer a Raptor but his love affair with Toronto will continue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum

TORONTO – Pascal Siakam is no longer a Raptor but his love affair with Toronto will continue.

The 29-year-old all-star forward was traded from the Raptors to the Indiana Pacers earlier this week, the last major player from Toronto’s 2019 NBA championship roster to leave the team. But Siakam, who is from Douala, Cameroon, said in an article written for the Players’ Tribune on Friday that after eight seasons in Toronto, it’s now his home.

“It’s where I live. It’s where so many of the things I care about are, and where my brothers and sisters are, and where my PS43 Foundation is and will continue to be,” wrote Siakam. “Man “¦ I’m so excited to continue that work. This isn’t ‘thanks for the memories,’ then I go someplace else.

“Basketball can take me all over the world. But like I said: This is home.”

The Raptors received guard Bruce Brown, forward Jordan Nwora and three first-round picks – two in 2024 and a conditional pick in 2026 – from the Pacers in return for Siakam. Toronto also got guard Kira Lewis from New Orleans, with a second-round pick going from the Pacers to the Pelicans in the deal.

Centre Christian Koloko, who has missed all season with respiratory issues, was waived by the Raptors in a corresponding move.

“None of that changes what Toronto has meant to me, though, and what it will keep meaning,” said Siakam.

“I put roots down for myself here – like, really, roots. I hope people reading this understand how big that was for me.”

Siakam’s basketball career almost didn’t happen. On Thursday, Raptors president Masai Ujiri emotionally recounted how it all came together by chance when Siakam was discovered in South Africa while visiting his sister before pursuing pastoral school.

Instead, Siakam attended a Basketball Without Borders camp and went on to play U.S. college hoops at New Mexico State before being drafted by Toronto 27th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

“All-NBA, all-star, all-everything, championship,” said Ujiri, marvelling at the happenstance that made Siakam’s career possible. “And it’s not stereotype championship of (an) African waving the flag on the bench. Scoring, contributing, doing everything that you can think of.

“Again, I say to you guys that that guy’s success is my success, no matter where he is.”

Siakam did much to help grow the sport of basketball in Canada.

At the end of every post-game news conference, he would take questions from francophone reporters, even teasing anglophone reporters who tried to ask him questions in broken French but still gamely answering them en francais.

Famously, during the Raptors 2019 playoff run, he even asked an NBA moderator “No French questions? What’s going on?” at the end of a news conference then returned to the podium when a reporter indicated that they would ask him a question in French.

His efforts to bridge Canada’s two solitudes didn’t go unnoticed, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanking him a day after the trade was announced.

“It’s sad to see one of my favourite Raptors go, but we’re grateful for what you’ve done – for the team, for the fans, and for the sport,” tweeted Trudeau. “Best of luck, Spicy P!”

The PS43 Foundation announced on Friday that it would remain active in the Greater Toronto Area and continue to find ways to make a difference in the lives of children through education.

“It’s everything to me,” said Siakam on Dec. 19 at a PS43 event where he met adolescent and teenage students who participated in Data Dunkers, a data science program his charity had helped fund. “Outside of Cameroon, it is probably the most I have spent anywhere in my life.

“It feels like home to me, having a supportive community, being part of it, it’s just incredible.”

McDonalds Canada confirmed that the Siakam Swirl, an ice cream treat he designed, would continue to be sold, albeit for a limited time.

“Just 20 minutes after the trade was announced McDonald’s Canada started getting questions about the Siakam Swirl McFlurry,” said a McDonalds spokesman. “We didn’t anticipate that the end of an era would be so focused on our delicious frozen dessert but we’re here for it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024.

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