Serge Ibaka: From refugee camp to NBA Champion
On June 14, 2019, veteran player Serge Ibaka became the NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors. The seemingly impossible journey from the civil war in the Congo got him where he is today.
Sergeballu Ibaka was born on September 18, 1989 in Brazzaville, capital of the Congo. His father, Desire is a famous basketball player in the national team. Similarly, Mrs. Amadou Djonga, Serge’s mother is also a Congolese basketball player.
Ibaka’s love for basketball probably began at the age of 7, when he started playing soccer in the streets of Brazzaville. He soon dreams of becoming a basketball star just like his parents.
“I play football every day,” the Toronto Raptors player told The Oklahoman. “If I don’t play, I feel frustrated, as if going through a pointless day. We love basketball to the point that we can play it regardless of time.”
A year later, an incident happened to the Ibaka family when Amadou died suddenly. Just eight years old, Serge had a lot of difficulties in getting used to an untold loss. But tragedy is still waiting ahead.
Soon after, the Congo civil war broke out and took the lives of 5 million people. Ibaka’s family had to seek asylum for four years. Upon returning home, Mr. Desire was sentenced and became a political prisoner, released only when the war was over.
Despite the harsh circumstances, Serge Ibaka rose from the ashes, joining a professional club at the age of 16. Without a doubt, a new basketball star has been discovered.
At 17 years old, Ibaka left the Congo to advance a potential career. He appeared in France for a short time before going to Spain, where the international arena recognized the first imprint of a boy born in 1989.
But before he became a basketball star, Serge had to go through a period of uneasy integration: “It is difficult to leave friends and family behind, leaving the Congo for Spain. I don’t know their language, but gradually I get used to everything “.
The first chance to realize the American Dream came in 2007, when Serge Ibaka was invited to the Adidas basketball camp. Many scouts saw the potential of this 2m13 tall, and one of them was the Seattle SuperSonics (later Oklahoma City Thunder).
“With all the information we have gathered about his concentration, his training method and simply his story, we believe Ibaka will be the right player for the team,” said CEO Sam Presti. shall.
Sonics picked Ibaka in the 24th round of the 2008 Draft. He started playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder season since 2009-2010 and has gradually become a trusted big man in the NBA. By the middle of his second year, Ibaka took the position of the main striker of OKC Thunder and became the best blocker in the tournament for two consecutive seasons.
The Spanish and Congolese nationals played a key role alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden (in a short time). In the summer of 2012, Thunder had a history of Playoffs in the NBA Finals and only lost to the Miami Heat.