Kings forward Skal Labissiere returns to his home country seven years after leaving for the United States.
Nearly seven years have passed since I last set foot in Haiti.
“You promised me I was going to reach the NBA…”
Those were my first words to my dad after being pulled from the earthquake rubble in 2010. That day - January 12, 2010 - will forever replay in my head. That earthquake changed the lives of Haitians forever. For me, much of what I knew and loved growing up between my home and school had become nothing more than debris.
But to this day, in what seems like forever away from home, I can still recall the happiest of memories from my childhood.
I’ll never forget the crooked courtyard basketball hoop I played on, the good times with family including NBA Live-filled nights with my brother or NBA games I’d watch with my dad.
God always had a plan for me, and I've always believed in it. I've been blessed by Him.
It's because of Him that I got to where I am now.
He got me through where I needed to go and where I needed to be…at the time, that was away from home.
Memphis, Tennessee to be exact. It was there that my basketball career truly took off, eventually earning me the dream I had since the day I set foot on the court.
Back in Port-Au-Prince as a kid, I used to tell my friends that one day I’d make the NBA. At the time, they’d laugh it off, but I knew I had it in me.
Although I haven’t seen them since I left home, we’ve communicated online for years. Whether it’s over one of the viral Facebook videos you’re likely to have seen or just catching up, since 2010, we’ve been doing this nearly every day.
Chasing my NBA dream meant sacrifice. With the help of my faith and my family, I got through it all. Between staying back from lunch in high school to watch film with my head coach, coming into the U.S. without knowing English and much more, it was all worth it. But nothing has been more taxing than leaving my home and friends behind.
Now, it’s time for me to see them again in person.
Five days after my second Summer League – essentially the beginning to my sophomore season - I’m in Haiti. It’s a sigh of relief and a day I’ve waited for every day since the summer I left.
Today’s the beginning of what I hope is an annual return home, not only for my sake, but as a way to make an impact with the youth of Haiti.
My first-ever Camp S.K.A.L trips lay ahead, with my goal being to provide lifelong skills and takeaways to each of the camp attendees.
While we’ll be spending some time on the court, what I plan to make a lasting impact with is off of the hardwood.
Had it not been for the knowledge of what it took to achieve my dreams, the perseverance that home instilled in me and the tools I was blessed with in my younger years, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I hope today, one day, will be a day I look back on and forever remember.
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I was in their position - roaming the streets of Haiti looking to make my dreams come true.
Whether future basketball stars or not, these kids are going to make Haiti proud. It’s bigger than basketball.