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Heat Nation Exclusive: Chris Silva Isn’t Playing for a Name, He’s Playing for an Entire Country
- Updated: November 9, 2019
With the Memphis Grizzlies already on their way to a loss versus the Miami Heat on opening night, the No. 2 pick of the 2019 NBA Draft hoped to make a highlight before his debut concluded.
Ja Morant raced down the court, caught a pass from his teammate and rose for a thunderous dunk. However, the high-profile rookie didn’t know the Heat’s latest hard-nosed developmental star was on his tail.
Instead of throwing down a poster during his much-anticipated debut, Morant met undrafted big man Chris Silva at the apex. The 6-foot-8 power forward swatted the slam in the air, sending the lottery pick to the floor. It was already Silva’s second block on Morant over the course of a few of minutes.
“It was definitely something special.” Silva told HeatNation.com in an exclusive sit-down interview. “That’s the kind of plays I make every time. It was exciting because it was in the NBA level. The crowd was going off and my teammates was going off. It was really, really crazy. I can’t play. It was crazy”
Silva, 23, finished the first game of his NBA career with eight points, six boards and three blocks in 11 minutes against the Grizzlies.
The ecstatic storybook moment shows the potential Silva can have in this league. However, it doesn’t portray the arduous journey that the big man has been on.
A native of Gabon, Africa, Silva has a very different testimony than most of his colleagues in the association. At the age of 15, the basketball novice packed his bags and headed to the states for the dream of a lifetime. Despite language barriers and culture adjustments, Silva has overcome every obstacle in his pursuit of making it to the NBA.
In four productive years with the University of South Carolina, Silva put up 11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 134 games. Furthermore, the forward became the first player in school history to total at least 700 rebounds and 500 made free throws. Yet, despite all of the hard work, Silva wasn’t selected by an NBA teams during the 2019 draft.
“I was disappointed,” he said. “Because where I came from there was only one guy that got drafted and played in the NBA. My perfect picture was to get my name called. My whole country was watching and was hoping for me to get called. My picture was to be called. After I didn’t get called, I was a little bit disappointed.”
Following the draft, several teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks, conducted interviews with Silva. However, the Heat and San Antonio Spurs showed the most interest in him.
Although Silva could have weighed more options, his agent Tony Dutt felt that the Heat provided one of the best opportunities for his future.
“We narrowed it down to two or three kind of like the Heat,” Dutt said. “But the Heat just made the most sense because of the plan that they have. Knowing the organization for a lot of years, I know how they commit to their players and they make players better, and not just better players, but better people.”
During the 2019 Summer League, Silva posted 7.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 18.3 minutes per game. Although his talented teammates, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, earned most of the Summer League buzz, the Heat gave Silva a shot to compete for a roster spot through training camp and the preseason.
Just minutes after the Heat’s preseason finale against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 18, Silva got the news of his life. After an impressive exhibition campaign, the Heat awarded the undrafted big man one of their two-way contracts.
Days later, Heat assistant coach Malik Allen sent Silva an inspiring message at practice.
In addition to informing the defensive stalwart that he would be making his debut during the season opener, Allen explained to Silva how special the moment was going to be considering the long journey and hard work he had put in to get there.
“From that moment to game day, I was just thinking about it,” Silva said of the encounter with Allen at practice. “I was just reflecting. Trying to call my mom and call my dad back home and try to tell them that tomorrow I’ll be suiting for an NBA game. It was definitely emotional, exciting and all that”
Since his coming out party against the Grizzlies, Silva has quickly become a fan favorite in Miami. Perhaps his biggest compliment, Silva is constantly getting compared to Heat legend Udonis Haslem. The Heat’s all-time leading rebounder was also undrafted and coached by University of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin.
Haslem, 39, has taken the rookie under his wing. From taking him out to dinner to constantly sharing perils of wisdom, the veteran has been a voice of encouragement to the youngster.
“Every practice he was with me giving me advice, telling me stories about the league, how to stay in, what to do,” Silva said of his relationship with Haslem. “During practice I was always trying to stick with him and trying to ask for advice every day, just trying to learn something from him every day because obviously he’s spent a lot of time in the league. It’s really like big brother to little brother relationship.
Although the international standout has a long way to go in order to get in the same territory as Haslem, he is on the right path. The forward is studying the game and finding ways to improve his craft. Among the players he aims to emulate is Rockets center Clint Capela, who has plenty of qualities Silvia believes he can replicate.
The sample size is small; however, Silva has shown he has real potential. With adequate amount of playing time and continued growth, the first-year pro can easily become a consistent contributor. In fact, Silva has numerous objectives for his future in the NBA.
“Definitely want to spend a long time in this league,” he said when asked about his career goals. “My goal is to obviously win a championship and bring it back home. If I can spend my whole career in Miami that would be lovely.
“Defensive Player might be sweet, probably All-NBA team, All-Defensive team. Defensive Player of the Year might be one of the things in my head. Because the first thing when I play basketball is always defensive plays.”
Yet, nothing will make the journeyman feel more accomplished than to make his country proud. Already having received a superfluous amount of messages from kids back home, Silva is an inspiration and trailblazer to many in his nation.
“A lot of people don’t know this but I’m leading the dream of a whole country right now,” said Silva.
As the highlights and hard work Silva has exhibited continue to grow, it won’t be long until people start recognizing the star from Gabon.