It was barely over a decade ago that Pascal Siakam first picked up a basketball and began his pursuit of an NBA career.
Back then, he had no idea what life could hold. Sure, he had dreams, but those seemed so far away. So he kept working, trying to refine his craft, and take whatever opportunities were available back home in Cameroon and across the continent. When Basketball Without Borders showed up in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2011, Siakam had to be there.
Looking back a decade later and with his second All-NBA honors to his name, Siakam shared his advice to his younger self.
"Be fearless, be patient, it's gonna be hard, it's not gonna be easy, and just always believe in yourself," he said Friday. "Man, like, you are way more powerful than what you can imagine and those thoughts that you have in your head that you thought were maybe too great achieve or those goals that you feel like are too great to achieve, like don't kind of like underestimate yourself, go for it, stay humble, work hard, and yeah, like the world is yours."
It's been a whirlwind, a Cinderella story, if you will, for Siakam who looked like a burgeoning NBA star before the pandemic hit and sent his career off-kilter. Then came the offseason shoulder surgery last summer that had him questioning if he'd ever make it back to the top tier of the NBA.
Today, though, Siakam is in a new place mentally. He responded to the hardship with the best season of his career and reclaimed his spot among the NBA's best. It came from the work he's put in, fine-tuning his craft on turbo speed compared to almost everyone else in the league.
"That's something I always have to remind myself. I'm like, man, like, 10 years ago, I don't know what I was doing," he said. "I have a different kind of like path with everyone, you know, like everyone started playing when he was three, four years old and, like, basketball is all they know and, for me, just coming in at a different time and maybe a little older, and just continue to get better. I feel like I have a different type of vision on that and knowing that, like, as long as I continue to improve the way that I'm doing, I can play at a higher level for a very long time."
Siakam isn't stopping now. He's seizing his first full offseason since the before the pandemic and getting in the gym working to get even better, he said.
"That's my goal. And I think that, yeah, like I'm getting better every year, it's about to be Year 7, man, like I can't even believe it, but just knowing the journey and how I evolved as a player, yeah, I expect more, I expect myself to play at a level that I probably haven't played before now," he added. "I feel like there's more, there's always more than achieving and I'm excited about that."