Kawhi Leonard took home the NBA Finals MVP when the Toronto Raptors surprised the world by winning the NBA title in 2019. But that never happens without the exceptional play of the long Cameroonian forward Pascal Siakam, who played Scottie Pippen to Leonard’s Michael Jordan in the title run.
Not surprisingly, Siakam has only gotten better. With Leonard gone, Siakam has become the go-to guy for the Raptors (along with the great Fred VanVleet).
Indeed, against the Philadelphia 76ers in the last meeting between the Raptor-Sixers, Siakam was the best Cameroon native on the court. Not a tough mantle to claim in most games, but with Cameroon’s Joel Embiid playing center for the Sixers, Siakam has to work hard to win the unofficial Cameroonian-of-the-Game Award. (A fact made even tougher by the presence of Siakam’s new teammate, another Cameroonian, the 7-foot Christian Koloko.)
Siakam had 13 assists (a career high) to go with his 20 points in the Raptors win a week ago. Now with a rematch set for tonight, Siakam will enter the game knowing the coach on the other bench thinks he’s a star.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers had this to say on Siakam: “Every year (his) ball handling has improved. His shooting has improved. His mid-game has improved. Understanding where to get his shots from. Playing him in the playoffs last year you could really see it. He is a bona fide star in the league. He is just tough and that all comes from work. That is not an inborn act. He put some time in and it shows.”
You know Joel Embiid heard what Doc Rivers said. Embiid is being touted as a favorite to win the NBA MVP this year — you can’t do that if you’re not at least the best Cameroonian on the floor.