Toronto Raptors player returns home to Montréal Nord
Chris Boucher brings championship trophy to Le Carignan Park in Montreal's east end, where he grew up
The shiny Larry O'Brien trophy stood beside Chris Boucher, who brought the top NBA prize back to his childhood stomping grounds Friday. The 6-10 athlete towered over the microphone and the dozens of children cheering for him.
"Everything started in Montreal North," Boucher said."I was that little kid in Montreal North that nobody knew."
The Toronto Raptors forward greeted fans of all ages at Le Carignan Park in Montreal's east end. It was at the basketball court in this park that Boucher first discovered his love of the sport.
"I finally came back as a champion," Boucher said.
Boucher said he hopes the children present are inspired by his experience.
"I wanted the kids to see something special," Boucher said, "and realize that I'm not the only champion here. They're all champions, and we're all champions together right now."
'That was his journey'
Boucher's mother, Mary MacVane, was at her 26-year-old's son.
She called on parents to support their children's ambitions, even though she acknowledged she hesitated to herself, at first.
She would always tell her son to go straight home after school, but he would be out the door holding a ball within seconds of arriving home.
"He needed to. That was his journey," she says now.
"And if he didn't go to the park, then maybe he would not be where he is."
She said she cried for days when he left home to pursue his career because she missed him and felt worried.
"But you have to encourage them to follow their dreams," she said.
High school players inspired
Boucher started basketball late, around the age of 15.
He was born in St. Lucia but moved to Montreal with his mother at the age of five.
When he was 16, he dropped out of school and began working as a part-time cook and dishwasher at a St-Hubert restaurant. When he wasn't on a shift, he would spend his time on the court.
He also took an unusual route to his professional basketball career: he entered the basketball academy at Alma, Que., just four years after he started playing.
Back in Montréal Nord, the local high school's basketball team, the Henri-Bourassa Béliers, won three provincial championships this year.
"A lot of our players have NBA aspirations, so he shows that it's very possible, and it's within their grasp," said Jude Alexandre, an assistant coach for the Béliers.
With files from CBC's Brian Lapuz