Toronto, Canada | THE INDEPENDENT | One of Africa’s top sporting sons, basketball player Serge Ibaka has not forgotten his roots despite the current focus on helping his Toronto Raptors put up a strong defence of their NBA title.
Ibaka, who hails from Brazzaville in Congo, has become a key figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, eloquently expressing the ways in which the issue, as experienced in the United States, is translated to the world at large, and especially in his home continent of Africa.
“This is one thing I want people to understand: What is going on in the United States is what is going on everywhere,” explained Ibaka.
“In the States, you can see what is happening directly, how police [are] killing somebody. But in Congo, in Africa, in all the countries in Europe, it’s happening too, in different ways.
“The fight we’re fighting here is bigger than the fight people are thinking [about] because if we can win this fight here, we’re going to change a lot of things around the world.”
He added, “When we go immigrate out there, they don’t want us [African people] to be there. They treat us like nothing. … They think we don’t deserve respect. They don’t respect us.”
That’s why Ibaka, who has become a quiet warrior for social justice and equality, wears the words “Respectez Biso” meaning “Respect Us” on his jersey.
He is one of several stars in the world of sport that have not been shy about speaking about Black Lives Matter and the fight against racism and police brutality. F1 racing champion Lewis Hamilton took the knee ahead of the start of the season recently.
Who is Serge Ibaka?
Serge Ibaka hails from Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo, where his basketball-playing parents encouraged him to take up the sport. At the age of 17 he moved to France and then Spain, where his skills in the sport made scouts sit up and take notice.
In the 2008 NBA Draft he was the 24th overall pick, signed by the Seattle SuperSonics – who soon rebranded to the Oklahoma City Thunder – and after a year away at Spanish side Ricoh Manresa (where he had a rolling option to be brought to the NBA) he moved to the United States and quickly became a key player for the Thunder.
Ibaka proved a brilliant player for Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2016 (and he featured for EuroLeague team Real Madrid during the 2011 NBA Lockout) before being traded to the Orlando Magic, while 2017 brought another trade when he ended up at the Toronto Raptors. It was with the Canadian team that Ibaka won his first NBA Championship, leading the Raptors to victory over the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 Finals.
The 30-year-old’s career achievements include being a three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, the blocks leader in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games with Spain, his national team (having been granted citizenship in 2011).
The 2020 NBA Playoffs will begin on August 17 and will pit the Raptors against the Nets.
For the second season in a row, the Toronto Raptors enter the playoffs with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.