How Tacko Fall went from 'terrible' basketball player to Celtics Summer League sensation with new attitude

Gabby Guerard
August 13, 2019 - 1:14 pm
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Tacko Fall became a Summer League sensation for the Celtics, with the crowd cheering the moment he stood up from the bench to enter the game.

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But just because Summer League is over, doesn’t mean the outpouring of love from Boston fans has ended for the 7-foot-6 center.

Of all the players that have ever interviewed during the Basketball Hall of Fame’s 60 Days of Summer, including Hall of Famer’s, there is only one who got a loud round of applause as he descended the stairs to simply enter the room.

Fall.

“I’m thankful,” Fall told Kyle Belanger in an interview at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “I feel really blessed to be in the position that I am. I didn’t expect what happened in Vegas, but whenever I stepped on the court and looked around and I saw all these people cheering for me – like I said, where I came from – it really inspired me to keep pushing. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Back in 2015, Fall posted a picture of the Hall of Fame to Twitter, noting his aspirations when he first began playing basketball.

And since then, he’s had to overcome a lot to get to this moment – leaving his native country of Senegal, traveling to America, learning a different language, finding a high school, learning a new sport, getting recruited, fighting NCAA ineligibility, and grinding through Summer League after not being drafted.

“Those years were really, really tough for me, because that’s when I had just started playing basketball. I left home when I was 16,” Fall said. “I was really close with my mom, I had never been away from my mom, she would never let me go out at all, and then all of a sudden I was out of the country 6,000 miles away.”

On top of all the other adjustments that Fall had to make, he wasn’t a basketball star at the time, either. He grew up a soccer player, who was just really tall and had been told to try basketball.

“I was terrible. I was terrible when I had first started,” he added. “But obviously when you start a new sport, there is going to be a learning curve. That doesn’t mean you’re bad, you just need to learn how to play the game. So, I went through that, but I just put my head down and knew I was on a mission, [it’s> why I came over here. And thankfully, I had a lot of people helping me with my game mentally and I just never gave up. I just kept pushing.”

Eventually, with the help of his host family, coaches at UCF, and mentors along the way, Fall signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics

But, the work isn’t done now. And his mentality hasn’t changed – keep pushing.

He has a lot of goals, and aspects of his game to improve.

“Just getting used to the system, being in Boston, and keep working on the things that got me here,” Fall said. “Keep working on my body, being able to be in great shape so I can stay out on the court, being able to run up and down, and just do simple things. I mean, those are the little things that will take you really far.”

And there’s much work to be done off the court and in the community as well. 

“It is important, it is very important. I actually went home a few days ago to see my family, but also to participate in the Basketball Without Borders, they had it in Senegal,” Fall said. “And I really had a great experience, and for me, it was a way to get started in the community and help kids out in Africa.”

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