Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) smiles alongside Brooklyn Nets guard Garrett Temple (17) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (Cole Burston/CP)

Q&A: Pascal Siakam on Kobe, scarves, all-star weekend and hot sauce


Last year he won the league’s Most Improved Player award. This year he’s a starter for his first appearance in the all-star game. It seems that as soon as Pascal Siakam reaches a new milestone, another first comes into sight. The 25-year-old is trying to push what’s possible for a kid who wasn’t playing basketball a decade ago, while taking it all in stride.

With Siakam’s growing fame comes increased visibility and opportunity, and the Toronto Raptors forward is starting to attack partnerships the way he attacks skill development. Given that his nickname is “Spicy P”, fans have been speculating that he should have his own hot sauce for some time — the Raptors even sent NBA media bottles of Siakam-inspired sauce last season to garner support for his MIP candidacy. It didn’t come as much of a surprise, then, to see him team up with Nando’s PERi-PERi to launch the limited edition Spicy P(ERi-PERi).

A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold will go to Right to Play, a non-profit that protects, educates and empowers children to rise above the impacts of poverty, war and disease by harnessing the power of play. Siakam has been involved with the organization since 2016 in programs both in Toronto and Africa and was named their Athlete Hero for 2019.

Before he jumped on a private jet to Chicago for all-star weekend, Sportsnet caught up with Siakam at the unveiling of his signature sauce to get his thoughts on his whirlwind ascension and what’s next on the horizon.

Sportsnet: You have your own sauce. When you heard that was going to happen, did it feel like a level up?

Pascal Siakam: It’s pretty cool to have your own sauce. Just something that is awesome to do. I’m super excited. I have [my] picture on the bottle that’s going to be sold almost everywhere in the country. I mean, that’s pretty awesome.

SN: Word on the street is you don’t even like spicy food.

PS: I mean, first of all, we got different levels. I’m a medium type of guy. We have the high heat, we’ve got a medium — whatever you want, we got it for you. And then, obviously, I bring all the spice. Yeah, don’t try to go try to bring that on me, man [laughs]. Don’t try and check me like that. Just like on the court, I’m giving you something for all situations. Whatever you need. If you need extra spicy, we got it. If you don’t eat meat, we got it. So, we’re ready for everything.

SN: Why the nickname, “Spicy P”?

PS: The way I play and the things I do on the floor, I add a certain flair to the game.

SN: So is the “P. Skills” nickname dead?

PS: No, people still call me that. Because I have a lot of skills. I like them both. I answer to them both. I’m spicy and I’ve got skills.

SN: What’s your go-to Nando’s order?

PS: My rookie year, I used to go there a lot. I’m talking all the time. I used to get whole chicken. With some rice and mashed potatoes. That’s usually the one I’d go with, and I used to get it with sauce and dip into it with bread.

SN: You’ve now got people talking about the fact that you could be most improved again. Is that recognition something you set your sights on?

PS: No, not really. I think it means I’m going in the right direction, though. It’s about continuing to develop as a player and continuing to get better and that’s something that I’m hoping to do every single year. Learning and working on different things. And then, obviously for me, I’m a team guy. Okay, these accolades have been nice. Winning a championship was the best thing that has happened to me that I’ve been through, that I’ve seen in my life. And, and you know, hopefully you have the opportunity to do that again.

SN: What are you looking forward to the most at all-star weekend?

PS: Having the chance to be with Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and a fellow Cameroonian, Joel Embiid. I can’t wait to represent not just the Raptors and Canada but the continent of Africa.

SN: Most players, when they do the Skills Challenge, they’re not doing it hard, they’re not doing it spicy. They’re just going through the motions. Are you trying to go out and get it?

PS: It’s going to be a fun time, man, for sure. I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I’m just going to have fun and I’m excited about it.

SN: After all these milestones you keep hitting, when I talk to you, you often reflect back on your dad [who was killed in a car accident in 2014]. When you became an all-star starter, did that come to mind?

PS: Oh yes, it’s everything. And I think also having my family there is going to also remind me of dad and being able to share that with them. I wish my dad was here, but I know he’s proud of me and excited about this. I think he dreamed about this, so it’s important for the whole family and I’m excited.

SN: Everyone’s going to be reflecting on Kobe Bryant during NBA all-star weekend. What’s it mean to play in a game that’s dedicated to him?

PS: Oh, it’s going to be crazy, man. Everything that he means to the game of basketball and being able to have such an impact in the game. Just the way, you know we lost not just him, but he had his daughter and all the people involved in the crash with him. I mean, I can only pray for the families, from someone that knows what it’s like to lose somebody like that. It means everything. It’s going to be such an honour to be able to be there and honour all of them by being an all-star in the game. I never got a chance to play with him. So that would be a chance for me to say, “Thank you, it’s an honour.”

SN: It seems like every player on the Raptors has their own brand. What is it about you guys that leads to all of you having these extensions of yourselves?

PS: I think it’s about creating a brand for yourself and making sure that you’re known, and that people know you for who you are. How do you do something that represents you and translates everything that you represent as a person and as a player? I think that’s something that we all develop. We learn from each other and just hope we create something not only for ourselves, but for our fans, and take advantage of being champions.

SN: Who put who on to scarves?

PS: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think Serge [started it]. I got my scarf from Serge, so I have to say him. But I felt like I was pressured and had to wear it. I feel like I had to wear the scarf. Serge made me wear it.

SN: Well, you can tell Serge, you don’t do food, you do art.

PS: I like that. I might steal that. I don’t do food. I don’t do sauce. I don’t do spicy. I do art.