“It took a while for me to get here, but I knew that it was just a matter of time. I always believed.”

Egbert Gaye

Khem Birch says he is a little nervous, as he is about to start his first season in the NBA.
“That’s OK, “ he says. “Because I was just as nervous when I was about to start playing in the European League and in college. It’s a nervous kind of excitement that I feel when I’m about to start something big. But I’m ready to help the Orlando Magic get to the next level.”
On July 10, the Magic added the Montreal-born forward to their roster, buying out his contract from Olympiacos in Greece, where he was signed for two years with the league champions there.
Birch told The CONTACT that making it to the NBA has been his life’s dream since he started playing ball with Riverdale High and with various community programs as a pre-teen, and after a long and tough journey he is ready to give it his best.
Over the years, from college to the NBA’s development league and then in Europe, the 6’9” forward established himself as a formidable rebounder and defender. He says he knows that the NBA is a whole different league, but knows also that he has what it takes to be on the court with players who are the most athletic, strongest and fastest in the world.
“It took a lot for me to be here,” he says. “But I’ve been away from home for a long time, now I’m more mature and I’ve learned a lot from all the places I’ve been, and I’ll be bringing all the stuff I learned in Europe and elsewhere to the NBA.”
He added that he’s especially happy to be with the Magic because it’s a young team that will offer players opportunities to develop.
“I will be bringing a lot of energy and as usual I will be playing hard and doing whatever it takes to help the team.”
The Magic is just as excited to have him on board.
Jeff Weltman, the team’s president of basketball operations, was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel saying, “Khem is a player that we felt a lot of NBA teams have had their eye on. He’s developed. He’s become a smarter, more mature player since going overseas. To get a guy at this stage of his career once he’s back from Europe, which often is a good place to develop players, is almost like adding a first-round draft pick. So we’re very eager to have Khem in and let him show us how he’s improved since the league last saw him at UNLV and the D-League.”
Khem’s mom, Wendy Sparks, herself an outstanding sports and entertainment personality, has been with him almost every step along the way on the road to basketball glory.
She remains his biggest supporter and most of all is happy to see him elevate above the challenges he faced along the way.
“Despite all of the hurdles and challenges that brought tears and frustration, his patience has brought him where he is today. As his mom, I am so proud of his hard work and perseverance. I know that he will cherish this blessing always.”
After spending a few of his early years in Ottawa with his dad, DeVincent Birch, Khem moved back to Montreal where he began making waves on the court at Riverdale High School in the West Island.
He also honed his skills with Montreal United and Brookwood Elites, two highly respected community basketball programs.
As an 18-year-old, Khem was ranked as high as No. 2 in ESPNU’s 2012 player rankings. In 2011, he chose to forego his final year in high school to attend and play college ball at the University of Pittsburgh.
At the time he was deemed by a respected basketball website as “possibly the best shot blocker in America.”
In 2012 he transferred to UNLV and put together a respectable season in 2013–14 averaging 10.2 rebounds per game, the third highest in his conference and 3.8 blocks per game, which was the second highest.
However, he played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in the Development League before moving to Europe where he played for Usak Sportif in the Turkish Supper League and then signing with the Greek champions in 2016.
“It took a while for me to get here, but I knew that it was just a matter of time. I always believed.”