From the streets of Brazzaville in Congo to winning an NBA Championship with Toronto Raptors, Serge Ibaka has come a long way.
As Ibaka made an emotional return to his country Republic of the Congo on Saturday with the Larry O’Brien trophy he won with Raptors last season, he revisited a very special place.
Back in 1998, Ibaka had fled the country prior to the Second Congo War. But it was basketball that gave him hope to pursue his dreams at a time conditions were severe back home after his mother’s death and when his father was imprisonment during the war.
“Sometimes life is like a movie and this script is written by God only,” the former Oklahoma City Thunder player wrote as he posted an emotional tweet.
After leaving Congo, Ibaka first moved to France as a teenager and played for a second division basketball team before going to Spain, where his journey as a professional player began.
A raw talent, he was spotted by an NBA scout and in 2009, penned his first contract with Thunder.
Ibaka’s love for food is well known through his YouTube channel named ‘How Hungry Are You?’. “It’s from my past experience, where I come from,” Ibaka told CBC. “I lost my mom when I was seven, and at some point in my life having food it was like a big deal for me because it was not every day,” he said.
Ibaka now plays for Spain after being granted citizenship in 2011. He was part of the team that won silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.