“The world’s hottest pepper is constantly changing, evolving almost.”
This is the opening excerpt of the aptly named Pepperhead.com’s review of the spiciest peppers in the world. However, it could also be used to describe Pascal Siakam’s breakout season with the Toronto Raptors.
Siakam, increasingly known as Spicy P, has spent the past five months shocking the league. Each game he busts out something new that leaves fans, teammates, and opponents in awe. He has transitioned from a fun side-story into an emerging household name, proving many people wrong in the process.
It’s almost as if grading draft picks in real time is monumentally dumb! https://t.co/SPJ0yBBIES
— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) February 15, 2019
In lieu of an underwhelming all-star weekend recap, I felt it was necessary to celebrate the all-star snub’s spiciest plays of the season so far, ranked on the official Scoville scale. The scale is measured in SHU – which, in my professional opinion, stands for Super Hot Units (not Scoville Heat Units) – and can vary from 100 SHU (banana pepper) to 3,200,000 SHU (Pepper X).
Without further ado…
Honourable Mention – Drew League. Jul. 15, 2018
This summer Siakam teased what was in store for the year, but I’m not sure anyone was paying attention. Technically, this play was not in-season. But ‘technically,’ Siakam clowns a defender in transition and then posterizes another opponent searching for their one shining moment. Therefore, it earns an honourable mention slot in the Siakam Spice Index.
Spice Level: Jalapeño Pepper (SHU – 3,500)
Detroit Pistons @ Toronto Raptors. Nov. 14, 2018
At face value, this should top the list. Siakam transports from the free throw line to the rim to prevent a game winning alley-oop by Glenn Robinson III. As Siakam tumbles into the cameramen, he shares a brief grin to acknowledge ‘yeah that was dope’. It even earned a slight fistpump from Kawhi Leonard!
But, fast-forward 1.2 seconds. Siakam loses his man in pursuit of Blake Griffin and allows the Pistons to score at the buzzer, gifting Dwayne Casey a victory in his return to Scotiabank Arena. As I’m hardwired to overlook any Siakam mistake, my theory is as follows – he left Reggie Bullock open to gift Casey and the Pistons their crowning achievement of the year. Realistically, this will be the highlight of their season. What a good guy. When people reflect on the 2018/19 Raptors, they’ll recall Siakam’s nasty block more vividly than a regular season loss.
Also, shoutout to Jose Calderon for the inbounds pass. Keep getting them cheques.
Spice Level: Thai Chili Pepper (SHU – 100,000)
New Orleans Pelicans @ Toronto Raptors. Nov. 12, 2018
There is a tiny little breakfast spot that I go to every single time I visit my parents. The food is pretty good and the coffee is above average. But what always brings me back is the fact that they don’t plop a bottle of Tabasco or Sriracha on the table beside my meal, instead there is a roulette of different hot sauces for my tasting pleasure. It’s the little things that matter. This play was Siakam’s understated moment of spiciness. It doesn’t blow your socks off, but it can be appreciated all the same.
Everyone knows that Siakam likes to spin in the lane and finish with his right hand. Anthony Davis is clearly aware of this tendency as well, launching at the first inkling of Siakam’s righty move. Siakam hits him with the subtle ball fake, ducking back towards the left side of the basket with a cheeky dipsy-doo. Marc Gasol would be proud of this post-up artistry.
Spice Level: Habanero Pepper (SHU – 200,000)
Denver Nuggets @ Toronto Raptors. Dec. 3, 2018
A couple of months ago I was delivering some crates for my buddy’s construction company. I was greeted at the drop-off site by a guy in a hoodie pacing back and forth. We exchanged a few grunts of nothingness to each other, unloaded the crates, and I was on my way. Suddenly, he hopped out of the forklift and called out to me.
“Hey man, wanna try something?” he asked, pulling out a suspicious ziploc bag. “I’ve been making some stuff in my basement.”
I quickly remembered my D.A.R.E instructor in Grade 5 telling me that this is a situation I should avoid, but by that time he was at my car window dangling the bag in front of me.
“They come from Trinidad,” he said, pointing at a bagful of peppers. “I bet you cannot handle this spice.”
It is embarrassing how quickly I shifted from fearing that this guy was about to try and sell me fentanyl, to wanting to prove my manhood to him. But he challenged my spice tolerance – which is all I have at this point – so I grabbed one of the peppers and took a bite.
Holy shit. Tears immediately streamed down my face and I thought my tongue had disintegrated. I was simultaneously numb and in excruciating pain. I could no longer look my new pepper dealer in the eye and drove home as fast as I could to go drown myself in milk.
Anyways, when Siakam dropped that dope spin move against Denver it caught me completely off guard, much like my hooded friend’s pepper.
Spice Level: Unknown black market pepper from a sketchy hoodie wearing fella (SHU – N/A but personal estimate ∼ 500,000)
Raptors @ Lakers, Nov. 4 2018
Until this piece, my naive self had gone through life assuming that the Ghost Pepper was still the hottest in the world. I was ignorant, now I’m educated. Similarly, I thought that cramming on LeBron (well, sort of) in November was going to be Siakam’s highlight of the year, unaware that he was destined to become a House of Highlights regular.
There are also outside factors adding to the spiciness of this play. First, the Raptors eviscerated the Lakers on their first trip to Los Angeles with Kawhi Leonard on the team, even though he didn’t play. Great recruitment method. Second, even though LeBron makes a last second business decision, Siakam still punks him. Also, if you screenshot at just the right time, you can see the exact moment that LeBron realizes moving to play with a group of overrated youngsters was ill-advised and that he must begin shamelessly courting Anthony Davis.
Spice Level: Ghost Pepper (SHU – 1,041,427)
Phoenix Suns @ Toronto Raptors. Jan. 17 2019
Words cannot describe watching Siakam deliver his first buzzer beater. This fan personifies the emotions that coursed through me the moment the ball soared through the hoop.
This is swell. Siakam taking the final shot with Kyle Lowry on the court was some Lion King levels of baton passing. Lowry literally handed the ball off to him! I’m definitely not reading too much into this. Siakam’s season has been one constantly defying the limitations others place upon him. This play embodied that, creating his own shot off of the dribble and finishing it with his off-hand. It doesn’t get much spicier than that.
Spice Level: Carolina Reaper (SHU – 2,200,000)
Feel free to send along any other plays that you deem worthy of inclusion into the Siakam Spice Index!