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Pascal Siakam credits Joel Embiid for ‘seriously’ influencing his passion for basketball


Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam has quite the backstory when it comes to his love for basketball. Growing up in Cameroon and playing the game, it had never occurred to him that someone from his country could make it in the NBA.

Then Joel Embiid was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014, opening the door for a potential future in basketball.

“Obviously, we had Hakeem [Olajuwon] and all those guys, but for me and my generation, he was the first person, that I saw that, from Africa that was the man on his team and that’s something that I really wanted to accomplish,” the Raptors talent said of Embiid, according to Michael Lee of The Athletic.

While there were a few Africans that crossed over to the NBA world, Olajuwon is from Nigeria, so is Al-Farouq Aminu. Dikembe Mutombo is from the Republic of Congo (now known as Zaire), so is Emmanuel Mudiay and Bismack Biyombo.

Yet Embiid was the first notable Cameroonese player to crack the NBA since Luc Mbah a Moute (2008) and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (2001), who played only three seasons in the league.

Siakam’s idols growing up were Didier Drogba, a soccer star born in the Ivory Coast, and Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon’s former national soccer team captain, and a striker best known for his stints with Barcelona and Inter Milan.

To have someone like Embiid make the league and start to make a splash likely gave Siakam some sense of confidence, a boost he’s used to emerge as one of the best players in the NBA this season.