With great performances in the NBA, Olivier Sarr is one of the international revelations of this season. It’s a victory, but also revenge for this 23-year-old basketball player from Toulouse who has not always known only victories in his early career.
From the gymnasium of the Seven Deniers to the parquet floor of Madison Square Garden, the rise of Olivier Sarr is meteoric. The 23-year-old Toulousain now plays with and against the best players in the world in the American basketball championship, the NBA. This week, he even dominated the best team in the championship, the Phoenix Suns, by scoring 24 points. “It’s the opportunity to show why I believe in myself and why people can believe in me. It changes the prejudices that some had about me, ”admits the athlete, with a rather atypical career.
After his first dribbles and baskets in the Toulouse TOAC club at the age of 12. The young and imposing pivot returns to the federal basketball center of Midi-Pyrénées. With an athletic profile and good results, he was then detected by INSEP. Despite some physical problems, the Toulousain excels on and off the pitch, with in particular obtaining the scientific baccalaureate with honors. So far, Olivier Sarr has a fully traced route to the top of French basketball.
A double role: student and high-level basketball player
But in 2017, the Toulousain embarked on a risky bet. “The United States was a perfect opportunity for me. I could not see myself becoming a professional in France and abandoning all school work, ”continues the now graduate in “business, entrepreneurship and communication”. After several seasons in college with the Deacons in Wake Forest, then with the Wildcats in Kentucky, the time has come to aim higher. The Toulousain dreams of the NBA.
To enter this championship and join one of the “franchises” (sports club integrated into the NBA), Olivier Sarr is a candidate for “the Draft”. In the NBA, this official ceremony is organized every year. It allows teams to choose their future players. But the evening does not go as planned for the Toulousain: “You put your name in the Draft and we announce you. That evening, I was not called. I told myself that I still had to work. Hold your head up high and still believe in me. Without officially signing with a club, the 2m13 pivot still has the chance to participate in a friendly tournament, the Summer League, with an NBA team.
First steps against world basketball stars
This experience allows him to shine and get noticed by several teams. Thanks to this tournament, Olivier Sarr joins the “reserve team” of Oklahoma City Thunder, a major American franchise. It was only at the end of December that the Toulousain had the chance to play his first minutes in the NBA. “I was called for a 10-day contract, then another. I signed afterwards for the end of the season. It motivated me enormously and it helped me. I was finally rewarded”. With first baskets, snatched rebounds and convincing counters, Olivier Sarr was full of confidence.
A few months after his first actions, he even impressed analysts and the French community that follows the NBA. The Toulousain did not expect such enthusiasm for his start to his career: “It’s quite impressive, I did not expect people to be so attentive to the results. The reactions are really nice”.
After several months with his Oklahoma City Thunder team and surprising statistics, Olivier Sarr did not see his contract renewed. “My contract was for a certain period. They gave me an incredible opportunity. Less than a year ago, I was undrafted. Nobody would have bet that I would have had such a season. I think I’ve shown that I can play in the NBA.” The pivot will take the opportunity to return to the Pink City. “I’m going to rest at home, see my family and friends. I also hope to finally be able to attend a match at the Stade”, rejoices the athlete.