Heat rookie Chris Silva’s motivation? Family and the dream to one day be reunited.
By Anthony Chiang
Running can be symbolic of so many things.
For Heat forward Chris Silva, running is symbolic of his unique journey and hope to one day be reunited with his family.
The undrafted rookie describes himself as more of the long-distance type who is known for his two-mile runs following basketball workouts. Silva prefers to run on a track or any circular path.
That’s where the symbolism comes in.
“It just unblocks my head. All I think about is making it,” Silva said of running. “There’s something about it. I like to do a circle because when I get tired in a circle, I know I can’t stop here. I have to finish to get back to the house.”
Playing under a two-way contract with the Heat, Silva (6-8, 234 pounds) is currently on his own circular path trying to make it back home to his family. He’s averaging 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18 games in his first NBA season.
A native of Gabon, Africa, Silva left his home country in 2012 just days away from turning 16 to come to the United States with a dream of making it to the NBA. He has seen his parents and siblings only once since then, and that was when he returned to Gabon for two weeks to renew his visa as a sophomore at the University of South Carolina.
“Two weeks felt like two days, to be honest,” said Silva, 23, of his lone trip back to Africa to visit his mother, father and three brothers. “I don’t think anybody besides my uncle has ever seen me play basketball.”
Silva’s uncle, Miguel, will watch him play again Wednesday when the Heat faces the Celtics at TD Garden. The Heat (14-5) begins a challenging back-to-back set Tuesday against the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.
Miguel, who is Silva’s legal guardian, lives in Boston and is one of Silva’s only relatives in the United States. The two have been through a lot together.
Miguel stayed up all night to track the four different flights Silva took to first arrive to the United States from Gabon. Silva didn’t speak English and had never been on an airplane before that long trek, with Miguel worried he would get lost along the way.
Once Silva made it to the United States to attend and play basketball at Roselle Catholic High in New Jersey, there were tough times Miguel had to talk Silva through. Silva was homesick almost immediately.
“He felt lonely. He wanted to see his mom, his dad,” Miguel recalls. “But he couldn’t make it. I remember at some point, the high school told me he had been down and they wanted to send him home to see his family. I said, ‘No, I’m going to talk to him because he just got here.’ I didn’t want him to want to go back right away.”
Miguel told Silva: “It’s a struggle, I understand. You feel lonely. I also got to the point after three months that I wanted to go back home, too. You’re going to be fine. You got good people who love you.”
Now, Miguel sends daily updates to their family in Gabon regarding Silva’s accomplishments — from being voted onto the SEC’s All-Defensive team in each of his final two seasons at South Carolina to playing for the Heat as an undrafted rookie.
While attending the Heat’s Oct. 23 season opener against the Grizzlies at AmericanAirlines Arena, Miguel sent a short video to the family of Heat public address announcer Michael Baiamonte introducing Silva when he entered his first regular-season NBA game.
“I have to update the family pretty much every day,” Miguel said. “They try to watch him play online, but the internet is so messed up over there. Now they have WhatsApp, so I can take a picture or record a video and send it to them.”
The time change also makes it difficult for Silva’s family to watch any of his games. A 7:30 p.m. Heat home game begins at 1:30 a.m. in Gabon.
“It’s a luxury to have cable in Gabon, especially to have those channels for those games,” Miguel said.
Silva has grown accustomed to going through life on his own, though. It has been seven years since he arrived in the United States.
“After spending all these years doing it by myself, I kind of got a hang of it,” Silva said. “But it would be nice. I don’t want to say being away from them is difficult, but it would be nice once something is hard or I have a good game to go home and see my mom. Talk to somebody in the family.”
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