There have only been four players in the history of the NBA who have been born in Cameroon. The Toronto Raptors have one of them in All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam. Apparently of the mindset that the squad needed one more Douala native in rookie Christian Koloko.
Unlike Siakam, Koloko is a 7-1 center that is fresh off dominating a major conference during his time with Arizona. Like Siakam, Koloko is a bit raw and needs Toronto’s strong culture of player development in order to become a contributor in this league for the next few years.
The fact that 40% of the league’s Cameroon-born players can suit up for the Raptors in any given game (or 60% when they play against Joel Embiid) is a cool moment that shows how the game is developing abroad. Koloko said the league should expect more Douala-based stars in the pipeline thanks to Siakam’s impact.
In his first media availability with the Raptors, Koloko talked at length about what Siakam meant to his native country. Siakam’s improbable path to stardom in the NBA has lit the spark of imagination in thousands of Cameroonians. Koloko will get his chance to follow in Siakam’s footsteps.
Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam inspires Christian Koloko.
“[Siakam] means everything,” Koloko said. “He’s the first person from Douala to go to the NBA, to get to that level. He’s an NBA champ. He’s an NBA All-Star. This year he was on one of the All-NBA teams. He just means a lot, showing people like me that anything is possible.”
Like Siakam, Koloko grew up in Douala and didn’t start playing basketball until his pre-teen years. With Siakam being a charitable soul who has used his basketball fame to help some of the less fortunate Cameroonians, Koloko and dozens of other compatriots have certainly picked a strong role model.
Ujiri’s Giants of Africa and Basketball without Borders not only does immeasurable good work growing the game in Africa, but it gave them a head start in scouring Koloko. After an impressive showing in South Africa in 2017, Koloko started to confirm himself as a player with pro potential.
With two Cameroonians and Precious Achiuwa representing Nigeria to the best of his ability, Ujiri has worked hard to make sure Toronto’s African connection is as strong as ever. One-third of Toronto’s rotation could consist of African-born players by the end of the year.