Chris Boucher on His NBA Career Peaks and the Ever-Evolving Player-Fan Dynamic

By Ben Botelho

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When picturing the traditional career path a young athlete takes en route to the NBA, it’s rare to debut in the league at 25 years old. They are eligible at 19, and most players complete their first senior performance at the age of 22. However, for Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher things did not go initially as planned.


Boucher was a star at Oregon, setting record numbers for total blocks and being named to the PAC-12 all defensive team in his senior year. It was at that time, however, when he had a heartbreaking end to his season after tearing his ACL, leaving him undrafted at the beginning of the 2017 NBA regular season.


“I thought [my career] was over. When I first got my surgery, obviously I was thinking how am I going to run fast again? How am I going to be able to jump again? When you throw your ACL during those first couple months, it feels like you’ll never get back”


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Despite this setback, Boucher displayed what would become a recurring theme in his life—persevering through adversity. After the draft, he was signed to a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors, where he made his NBA debut in 2018. Although he was not a standout player among the star-studded roster in the Bay Area, Boucher collected a ring in 2018 and was ultimately waived by the Warriors in the offseason.

Chris Boucher is dribbling the ball and facing the camera. He is wearing a black track suite with white stripes down the arm and legs. He is wearing black sneakers on a basketball court.
Chris Boucher for Glory Sports

Once again, he found himself facing difficult circumstances but at the start of the 2018-19 NBA campaign, Boucher found himself a home in Toronto. After being signed by the Raptors, he set a G-League record by winning both the MVP and Defensive Player of the year in the same season. His performance earned him a contract with the Raptors, and in the space of a year Boucher had gone from being waived, to being one of the best G-League prospects in the last decade. 


“I always knew that I was better than what they saw from me and what I showed, but I also felt like I needed to put in a lot of work for myself. So when these two connected, when I started focusing on basketball and trying to be a true professional and put in the work, that made me a different player.”


Boucher is currently enjoying life in Toronto. Since his arrival, he’s added another championship ring to his collection, and most recently signed a three-year extension worth over thirty-five million dollars. However, like many cities with passionate fanbases, Boucher has faced his fair share of scrutiny from the Toront’s media and fanbase. 


The world of professional sports is currently in an unprecedented era of coverage and discourse that involves millions of people worldwide. Naturally, players have access to this coverage through their own platform, and are often the subject of online criticism that can have a detrimental effect on their mental health. 

Chris Boucher wearing a grey sweatsuit and red basketball shoes. He is dribbling a basketball on a court.

“I’ve never really been into what people say. I mean my whole life they said I couldn’t make it, that I couldn’t play basketball. So it didn’t really bother me as much as in my second or third year, when I started getting into social media,” says Boucher. “I think that really affected me a little bit more. I was reading everything people were saying, and I don’t think it was bothering me, but I was just like, wow, that’s unbelievable how many people could be talking about you without knowing who you are.”


As social media has evolved, so too has the player-fan dynamic. Boucher has understood it to be completely different compared to that of the 1990s, and in many ways, a healthier one.


“I think the love for a team or your player is still the same. I play for Toronto. The Toronto fans love their players, they love their team. I think that’s still there. I think the one thing that changed is fans are more involved in the sport now,” he says. “For example, you can gamble, and that changed a lot of things now because obviously you don’t really love the sport as much anymore. They are getting involved as much as you are in the game now to a point where if you lose, they lose too.”

Chris Boucher wearing a green jacket and a purple hoodie underneath. He is against a brown backdrop and staring in the camera with a milk moustache
Chris Boucher for Silk

On the upside however, Boucher has also used his platform and prowess as a means of empowerment, building his brand and business beyond the basketball court. Today’s generation of top athletes understand the value of extending their appeal beyond their sport as a means of both longevity and versatility. 


Take Boucher’s most recent partnership with Silk as an ambassador of their NextMilk campaign, featuring a quirky take on the milk-moustache ads that peaked in pop culture popularity during the 90’s and early 2000’s. 


“Working with Silk has been amazing. I had a couple months where I was vegan and didn’t really know what I was going to do. I wanted my shake, my proteins, and I didn’t really know how I was going to approach that. There’s a lot of stuff that I was finding, and obviously you still want to have the milk taste without having milk, so that definitely helped me out. I think that was really special just to have a company like that.”


Ultimately, Boucher is enjoying his time in Toronto and the success that comes with it. The resilient forward is accustomed to proving himself everywhere he goes, and is equally up for the challenge.


This year, the Raptors are competing in a season where they will need Boucher to perform to reach the team goals they aspire to achieve, and after facing adversity throughout his entire career, they can be sure that he will deliver.