Pascal Siakam and Giannis Antetokounmpo have a lot in common. Both are foreign-born players who are rising stars in the NBA and judging by their speeches at the NBA Awards, both owe much of their success to their late fathers.
At a ceremony held last night in Santa Monica, Antetokounmpo won MVP while Siakam won Most Improved Player and both used their acceptance speeches to express their appreciation for their dads.
Bucks big man Antetokounmpo’s father Charles died of an unexpected heart attack nearly two years ago in Milwaukee, where he had moved with his family after the Bucks drafted Giannis.
As his mom and brothers looked on from the audience, Antetokounmpo got emotional talking about the role his dad, who emigrated to Greece from Nigeria, had played in his life and career.
“Everyday that I step on the floor, I think about my dad,” he said. “That motivates me, that pushes me to play hard and move forward.”
The Greek Freak, as he’s known, also had kind words for his brothers, whom he called his role models, and his “true hero,” his mom.
Cameroonian forward Pascal Siakam won a championship with the Toronto Raptors about two weeks ago, and last night he added some more hardware to his already impressive collection.
“For the people who know my story, they know how important my dad is and him not being able to be here today,” said Siakam, whose father was killed in a car accident in 2014.
Siakam writes “RIP DAD” on his shoes before every game he plays.
“He had this crazy dream. People back home never believed in him, and he always believed, he always believed this would be possible one day. Siakam’s brothers all played college ball, but he was the only one to make it to the NBA.
“I’m just blessed to be able to make his dream a reality,” he said in his speech.
Both speeches brought to mind Kevin Durant’s barn burner of a speech paying tribute to his mom, after he won the MVP award in 2014. They were a reminder that raw physical ability is important, but the support of a parent can be the thing that ultimately pushes an athlete to greatness.