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Chris Boucher: From Dishwashing High School Dropout to 2-Time NBA Champion

He went from washing dishes to hoisting the Larry O’Brien (twice!)

The NBA underdog story of Chris Boucher
Credit-AP/NBA/Toronto Raptors/Joker Mag

He was born in Castries, Saint Lucia, and raised in Montreal, Canada.

When it comes to the NBA, that’s enough of a reason to declare Chris Boucher an underdog. 

But that would make this story short and for Boucher – a two-time NBA champion – his tale deserves a deeper dive.

At just five months of age, Chris Boucher and his mother relocated from Saint Lucia to Montreal to reconnect with his father.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the couple soured as did the connection between Boucher and his father, who had deemed his son to be worthless (Father of the Year award right there, folks!). 

Growing up with the unfortunate tag of being underprivileged, he found joy in playing both soccer and hockey.

As a teenager, he struggled academically and eventually dropped out of high school only to find a job washing dishes and cooking at a St. Hurbert chicken restaurant.

He played pickup basketball every night after work.

“I was at the park from 5 p.m. to midnight. We used to play, like, the whole time,” he said.

“I had no place else to go.”

Having not played high school ball, the first time Boucher pulled on a jersey was when Igor Rwigema and Ibrahim Appiah offered him a spot on the Alma Academy roster, a program focused on helping inner-city kids.

“I got the application and figured it was a mistake, just some kid listing his wrong height [6-foot-9] to get attention,” Igor Rwigema said.

“I even looked him up on Facebook, but the only picture [on] there was of him sitting down, so that was that. This guy did not exist.”

A quote from Chris Boucher of the Toronto Raptors: "I’ve always somehow, someway felt like I was okay. Even though I was not in the [same] position with the other kids and all that, I never saw myself as unworthy."

Despite having only pick-up game experience, Boucher impressed several NCAA Division I coaches with his playing ability.

For Boucher, who bounced from apartment to apartment and lacked any sort of stability in his life, Alma Academy was the rock that he needed.

“He had (at Alma) some…stability in his life,” Appiah noted.

“He had a place to play, a place to stay, a schedule to follow, going to practice, and studying. He also had us whenever he needed us. When a kid has all of those things in his life, you finally see the real potential. So many kids are just discarded because they don’t have those benefits. They’re never given a chance.”

Following an impressive freshman season at New Mexico Junior College where he averaged nearly twelve points and seven boards for the Thunderbirds, Boucher transferred to Northwest College for a single season, becoming the NJCAA Player of the Year for the 2014-15 season.

With two impressive collegiate seasons under his belt, Boucher received interest from various Division I programs including Minnesota, Oregon, TCU, and Texas Tech. 

For those keeping track, Boucher made stops in Saint Lucia, Montreal, New Mexico, and Wyoming, so why not add in a cross-country stop in Eugene, Oregon?

Measuring up at 6’10” with the body of a Twizzler, Boucher worried the Ducks coaching staff that his thin frame might not be able to withstand larger foes.

“I’ve always somehow, someway felt like I was okay,” he said. “Even though I was not in the [same] position with the other kids and all that, I never saw myself as unworthy.”

But those worries were quickly squashed as Boucher became the focal point in Oregon’s victory over then-20th-ranked Baylor, leading the way with 15 points and 8 rebounds in just his second game of the season.

He finished his first year with the Ducks averaging 12 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks.

However, Boucher’s senior season came to an unfortunate end as he tore his left ACL during the Pac-12 Tournament Semi-Finals. Amazingly, he still finished out the game, notching 10 points and 2 blocks.

While his stats dropped slightly in his final year, Boucher opened the eyes of some NBA executives as a sleeper for the 2017 NBA Draft.

As a tweener forward/center with the ability to run the floor, step outside for the three-pointer, and block shots, he showed the ability to fit the mold of the modern NBA big man.

Unable to participate in any pre-draft workouts or camps due to his injury, Boucher’s name went unannounced in the draft. But fortunately, the Golden State Warriors called afterward to offer him a two-way free-agent contract.

“I didn’t watch him much in college, to be honest with you,” admitted Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “But I know he blocked a lot of shots and made threes, and that made him attractive as a prospect. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Unfortunately, Boucher’s NBA dreams were put on hold, as he spent the majority of the season suiting up for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

But after spending nearly the entire season as a G League project, Boucher received the call he’d been waiting for, the opportunity to suit up alongside his former Oregon teammate Jordan Bell, not to mention Steph, Klay, Draymond, and KD.

While Curry, Thompson, and Green didn’t play, Boucher had a prime seat to watch Durant and company outscore the LA Lakers for nearly 47 minutes.

With 1:19 left on the clock, coach Steve Kerr called Boucher’s name to make his NBA debut.

In what may have felt like a combination of a lifetime and the blink of an eye, Boucher attempted 1 three-pointer and grabbed one defensive rebound. 

Even though he had just 79 seconds of floor time to his credit, he was still eligible to receive one of the Warriors 2018 NBA Championship rings as he was still under contract, despite being unable to play due to his two-way deal.

But shortly after the Dubs’ championship parade, Boucher was waived.

Less than a month later, he returned to Canada, more specifically about 540 kilometers (5 hours) away from where he grew up, signing a 2-year, $2 million free agent deal with the Toronto Raptors.

Proving that the Warriors gave up on him too early and that the Raptors made a wise investment, Boucher made history by becoming the first player to win both the G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season – not to mention All G-League First Team as a member of the Raptors 905.

Later that season, Boucher joined the big boys, finishing the 2018-19 season with 28 games and 163 minutes.

Unlike his time with the Warriors, Boucher found himself on the Raptors’ playoff roster.

While he didn’t see any court time during the first two rounds, Boucher recorded 4 minutes, 5 points, a rebound, and a block in two games against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Just weeks later, he received his second straight NBA Championship ring.

Not bad for a high school dropout and former chicken cook.

Chris Boucher: From high school dropout to 2-time NBA Champion.

Seventeen months later, Chris Boucher inked a 2-year, $13.5 million deal, becoming a permanent fixture in Toronto’s bench rotation.

While he stated that the new contract wouldn’t change who he was as a person, it did change how he played on the court, averaging a career-high 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. 

“I think money won’t change that. It’s definitely going to help me with my family,” Boucher said.

“I don’t want my mom to work no more. That’s definitely one thing I’m going to take care of. And…I think just to try to keep the love of basketball, try to get better, not get too comfortable, and learn from my mistakes.” 

A free agent in 2022, Boucher had little doubt as to where he wanted to continue his NBA career, signing a 3-year, $35.25 million deal to remain in Toronto. 

“I knew I wanted to be in Toronto. I feel like I was building something,” Boucher noted. “Masai (Ujiri) and Bobby (Webster) did a good job to show me that they wanted me to stay here and show me my role, and it’s all the thing I really wanted to do. It’s not like I was looking somewhere else or to be somebody else.” 

It appears the same mentality and approach that took Boucher from an unknown playground baller to NJCAA Player of the Year to G League MVP has not left him even as he reached basketball’s highest level.

“Chris epitomizes hard work and perseverance,” Webster said following the contract signing.

“He has shown us that he values being a member of this team through his commitment to continual improvement and finding ways to impact winning on the court,”

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Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.

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