Bismack Biyombo, center for the Toronto Raptors, is a Jordan Brand athlete. As it goes when athletes sign with brands, they get a great deal of sneakers, and anybody who knows Jordan Brand knows there’s a great selection to choose from.

But it hasn’t always been like that for Biyombo. He grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where sneakers weren’t always readily available. He explained to Slam how he didn’t own a new pair of sneakers until he turned 16.

Biyombo explained the situation to Slam as such:

“I didn’t get to wear a brand new pair of shoes until I left my country at 16, when I went to Yemen. It was always, you go to the market and somebody had worn the shoes, you can get those shoes. And my dad had to pay for it,” Biyombo says. That first pair of sneakers was a plain jane pair of adidas, which he wore at an international youth tournament that would get him noticed and begin his journey toward the NBA. “I was joking with my dad a year ago, saying it’s funny because you used to pay money every single time I needed shoes, but now I’m actually getting paid to wear the shoes, can you believe that?”

Biyombo also told Slam that he’s enjoyed his transition from a Nike athlete to Jordan Brand. “Obviously, the cool part about it is you get all these cool Jordans before other people get them, and you get all the nice clothes. It’s pretty exciting, and I’m very thankful to be a part of it. It’s something that, as a kid you grow up dreaming about wearing a pair of Jordans.”

Perhaps the switch to Jordan Brand explains the best numbers of his career as well. Biyombo is averaging 5.4 points and eight rebounds per game off the bench for the Raptors, who are just two games back of the Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Anybody would certainly would enjoy being sponsored by a brand, and particularly Jordan Brand. But you have to imagine that it’s just a bit sweeter for Biyombo when you consider his path.

About Harry Lyles Jr.

Harry Lyles Jr. is an Atlanta-based writer, and a Georgia State University graduate.