As Chris Boucher (Raptors) and Alfonzo McKinnie (Warriors) each compete in the NBA Finals and their teams inch closer to a championship, it’s worth noting how far they’ve had to go — overcoming the many obstacles that stood in their way and coming out stronger on the other side — to reach this level. Their paths are eerily similar, so much so that one might say they’ve mirrored one another at certain points.
Alas, the two budding young talents are on opposing sides in this formidable series. Ironically enough, McKinnie was on a Two-Way Contract with the Raptors last season, whereas Boucher played one out with Golden State. The pair proved to be two ships passing in the night back in the summer of 2018, when they briefly joined forces on the Raptors’ NBA Summer League team. McKinnie went on to snag the Warriors’ final roster spot out of training camp this past season, and Boucher later had his Two-Way Contract converted by Toronto back in February.
Oh, how far they’ve come.
Suffering a torn ACL as his collegiate time at Oregon was winding down, Boucher’s NBA future was put in serious doubt. Once considered a bouncy, athletic specimen with range and physicality, it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not these gifts would return as he clawed his way back. While the setback may have temporarily derailed his path, the big man began laying down more building blocks last year with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Regaining that comfort level again, Boucher burst back onto the scene in pro campaign number two. Though he had to prove himself with the Raptors 905, it seemed as though he found his footing again, to say the least. Boucher averaged 27.2 points on a 52/32/77 shooting clip, to go along with 11.4 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals per contest. Simply put, he was dominant on both ends and that was validated by his end of the year honors. He became the first player in NBA G League history to be named MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.
“I was watching him over the season in the G League. Some of the things he was doing were amazing. Being named MVP was great for him. It was definitely a boost to his confidence. I’m just happy for him,” McKinnie said of his Finals competitor.
As far as the Warriors’ swingman is concerned, he too has had to grind his way up to basketball’s grandest stage. McKinnie started his career by playing overseas, and though he had pro experience, proved humble enough to compete in an NBA G League open tryout in 2016. He later emerge as a minor league all-star for the Windy City Bulls in 2017. He’s continued to embrace stepping stones all the way to becoming a reliable 3-and-D player in Steve Kerr’s rotation. This season, he shot 36% from deep through 72 games, and has hit a bevy of clutch shots during his team’s postseason run. Needless to say, his efforts are appreciated.
“Great guy in the locker room,” Golden State teammate Andrew Bogut said. “He comes in and puts his work in, shooting the three-ball at a clip. He gets a lot of extra possessions for us as well. He’s a very good offensive rebounder, very athletic and strong.”
Even beyond what they do on the court, the respective journeys of Boucher and McKinnie can serve as inspiration for other up and coming hoping to carve out their own paths while aiming to defeat the odds.
“It’s a great story, not just for us, but for young guys out there that don’t get drafted, Bogut said, later adding, “[McKinnie] has gone on his way to an NBA career and I think he’ll have a very successful career going on from here.”
The groundwork has been laid down and their futures are bright. Perhaps Boucher says it best.
“For me, it keeps getting bigger. Every time I get to a point where I’m like,’what else,’ it’s always something. Last year, I tore my ACL and went to The Finals (as a Two-Way Player). Then I got waived, went to [the Raptors 905] and won the G League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year,” he pointed out. “Now I’m like, what else? I’m at the NBA Finals. It keeps coming.
It makes me want to work harder because if I can get all of this without getting to my potential, what else could happen?”