Serge Ibaka: From the refugee camp to the NBA champion

On June 14, 2019, veteran player Serge Ibaka became the NBA champion with Toronto Raptors. The seemingly impossible journey from the civil war in Congo has brought him to this position today.

Serge Ibaka: From the refugee camp to the NBA champion

Nourish the dream of a star with difficulties

Sergeballu Serge Ibaka was born on September 18, 1989 in Brazzaville, the capital of Congo. His father Desire was a famous basketball player who was part of the national team. Similarly, Amadou Djonga, Serge’s mother is also a Congo basketball player.

The NBA champion’s love for basketball probably started when he was 7 years old, when he started playing football on the streets of Brazzaville. He soon dreamed of becoming a basketball star like his parents.

“I play football every day,” the Toronto Raptors player told The Oklahoman. “If I didn’t play, I would feel frustrated, as if I had to spend a meaningless day. We love basketball so much that we can play without caring about the time.”

Serge Ibaka (left) and father Desire (right)
Serge Ibaka (left) and father Desire (right)

A year later, the incident occurred with Ibaka’s family when Amadou suddenly died. At only 8 years old, Serge had a lot of difficulties getting used to the immeasurable loss. But tragedy is still waiting ahead.

Shortly thereafter, the Congo civil war broke out and claimed the lives of 5 million people. Ibaka’s family had to take refuge for 4 years. Upon returning to his homeland, Mr. Desire was sentenced and became a political prisoner, only released when the war was over.

The Congo Civil War claimed many lives, but it could not take away Ibaka's passion for basketball
The Congo Civil War claimed many lives, but it could not take away Ibaka’s passion for basketball

Despite the harsh circumstance

Serge Ibaka rose from the ashes, joining a professional club at the age of 16. 1 year later, he attended the U18 African Championship and won the MVP title. No doubt, a new basketball star has been discovered.

At the age of 17, Ibaka left the Congo to promote a promising career. He was present in France shortly before arriving in Spain, where the international arena recognized the boy’s first marks born in 1989.

But before becoming a basketball star, Serge had to go through a period of integration that was not easy: “It was difficult leaving my friends and family behind, leaving the Congo to go to Spain. I don’t know their language, but eventually, I got used to everything. “

Serge Ibaka opted to wear the Spanish team
Serge Ibaka opted to wear the Spanish team

The first opportunity to realize the American Dream came in 2007, when Serge Ibaka was invited to Adidas basketball camp. Many scouts see the potential of this 2m13 tall player, and one of them is Seattle SuperSonics (later Oklahoma City Thunder).

“According to all the information we gather about his concentration, training method and simply his story, we believe that Ibaka will be a suitable player for the team,” said Sam Presti, Managing Director. will.

Gradually became a reliable big man in the NBA

Sonics selected Serge Ibaka in the 24th edition of Draft 2008. He started playing for Oklahoma City Thunder from the 2009-2010 season and gradually became a reliable big man and NBA champion in the NBA. By the middle of the second year, Ibaka took the lead position of OKC Thunder and became the best blocker in the tournament for two consecutive seasons.

he was named at the 2008 NBA Draft
Serge Ibaka was named at the 2008 NBA Draft

Players of Spanish and Congolese nationality play a key role alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden (for a short time). In the summer of 2012, Thunder had a historic Playoffs when he entered the NBA Finals and only lost to Miami Heat.

Serge Ibaka left OKC Thunder shortly after the departure of Kevin Durant. Only half a year later, he was once again exchanged for Toronto Raptors. The reputation of the pioneer in 1989 dropped to the lowest, but the Canadian team understood his value and made a 3-year contract worth $ 64 million.

After 2 years, Serge Ibaka tasted the taste of the greatest glory a NBA champion basketball player could dream of. Under the age of 31, the player from the Congo can fully accept an attractive offer this summer. What the NBA champion did today seems to exceed the imagination of the boy in the refugee camp.
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