The Cusp

From Homeless at 16 to NBA Champion: Chris Boucher

VICE Sports ventured up north to Toronto to see just how Boucher intends to be the best player on the court, bar none.
October 29, 2019, 2:00pm

Saint Lucia-born Canadian Chris Boucher grew up on the North side of Montreal in a tough neighborhood where, he says, “there’s a lot of drugs, there’s a lot of crime, there’s a lot of gangs.” His goal was to find his way out of that turmoil and into prosperity without having to “do anything crazy.” He did just that. It was far from easy.

His parents split up. From ages 16 to 18, having to choose between living with a mother in a new relationship with a man he didn’t get along with or a very strict father he chose neither, dropped out of high school and went homeless. He needed direction. Basketball gave him just that.

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After exhibiting a natural talent for the sport, he was groomed to play it under Coach Ibrahim Appiah at Alma Academy, a school which was created to help inner-city teenagers with few future prospects. “He grew a lot at the Academy just because it was the first time he had a stable situation,” says Appiah of the strides he saw Boucher make at the school.

From there Boucher would play at a couple junior colleges where he would impress recruiters from bigger, four year schools—he received offer letters from enough big time programs to fill a nice sized box. He eventually chose University of Oregon, where he and his teammates would go deep into the NCAA tournament, landing him a solo cover of Sports Illustrated asking where he’d come from and speculating where he might go. The magazine couldn’t have predicted a torn ACL the following year that would see Boucher go undrafted as his friends and teammates all made their way to the NBA.

After getting healthy, and overcoming some understandable resentment, Boucher found himself on assignment in the G League where he was determined to show he hadn’t lost a step. Though he only played there for 28 games, he became the first player to win the G League’s MVP and Best Defensive Player awards in the same season before being recalled back up to the Toronto Raptors, who went on to win the 2019 NBA Championship with Boucher on the roster.

Now, having reached the top of the mountain—from undrafted with an injury to NBA champ—Boucher is grateful to the G League for allowing him the space to improve while showing people what he’s capable of. “Sometimes you just need a little bit of confidence and an opportunity and you can get wherever you want to be,” he says.

Created with The NBA G League.