Serge Ibaka is 6′10″, speaks four languages, and has been called the world’s most stylish man. His departure from the Toronto Raptors to join the Los Angeles Clippers is a big loss for Canada’s only NBA team.
Rumours were swirling about Ibaka’s possible departure for the past week, and there were several reports Saturday about him heading to L.A. Ibaka confirmed the news on Sunday afternoon, when he posted an emotional goodbye to the Raptors on his social media channels.
“How to explain what Toronto, Canada, and the Raptors mean to me? I was welcomed to a new country and a new team more than three years ago and I felt at home from day one,” he wrote.
“I’ve had great teammates, front office and staff next to me. And of course, a fan base that is second to none. So thank you Toronto. Thank you, Canada. And thank you Raptors. I am one of yours forever.
Here are all the reasons we’ll miss having Serge Ibaka here in Canada.
His basketball prowess
Okay, this is a given. But Ibaka was a big part of the supporting cast when Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship in 2019. His departure is undeniably a blow to the team, according to Sportsnet, who wrote on Sunday after the news broke that “Ibaka’s combination of floor-spreading shooting and defensive ability seems difficult to replace.”
His fashion sense
“I don’t dress, I do art,” Ibaka memorably told his teammate O.G. Anunoby earlier this year (more on that later). After careful consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion that he’s right.
It’s not often you see a professional male athlete don a Thom Browne skirt, like Ibaka did at the designer’s show at Paris Fashion Week last summer.
His pre-show outfits were frequently a highlight of the Raptors’ Instagram account, which is made all the more impressive when you think about how hard it must be to find clothes that fit when you’re nearly seven feet tall. And he was often bold in his choice of an accessory, opting for things like a side bag or a bucket hat — pieces that requires just the right amount of confidence to pull off.
Even when he hurt his ankle last fall and had to wear a cast, he balanced it with a tailored suit, a colourful accent and — naturally — a matching suitcase.
His scarves, specifically
If you haven’t yet seen the epic showdown between Ibaka and Anunoby over fashion, and specifically over who among the two of them started wearing scarves first, please do yourself a favour and watch it now.
It’s an incredible microcosm of everything that’s great about Serge Ibaka: his passion, his determination, his elevation of what you or I might call “wearing a scarf” to the level of art.
That cooking show
Ibaka has his own cooking show, “How Hungry Are You?”, where he chats with fellow NBA players and then tries to get them to eat things like worms, snakes, and pizza topped with beef penis. It’s a vehicle for his affinity for cooking, his sense of humour, and his interview skills. Part Marc Maron, part Martha Stewart, part “Fear Factor,” we promise it’s unlike any other cooking show you’ve seen.
His sense of humour
When the pandemic hit in March and the NBA was put on hold, Ibaka took the opportunity to release a new video series. “How Bored Are You?” covered topics like his home gym setup, a conversation with public health officials, and his tips for ironing pants. (“If you do art, you have to know how to do this.”)
His language skills
Ibaka grew up in the Congo, speaking both French and Lingala. He’s also fluent in English and Spanish, which he’s demonstrated in a number of multi-lingual press conferences. It’s a pretty impressive few minutes.
The Serge Ibaka Foundation partners with local groups to help children living in poverty. Last year, that meant joining up with Regent Park Community Food Centre to provide healthy meals to people in Toronto who live with food insecurity.
“I grew up extremely poor in the Congo and I learned what hunger and homelessness were as a child. I was surprised to see so many people living on Toronto’s streets. It was difficult to understand how poverty and hunger could exist in such a wealthy city,” he said in a statement in March.
This spring, the foundation focused on COVID-19 relief efforts in the Congo, Ibaka’s home country. According to the foundation’s website, they were able to provide food aid to 8,000 Congolese families.
And it seems like he brings that spirit to his day-to-day life, too. During the 2019 finals against the Golden State Warriors, some Toronto fans were so focused on winning that they started cheering when Golden State’s Kevin Durant got injured and had to be led off the court.
But Ibaka and his teammate Kyle Lowry, along with announcer Herbie Kuhn, quickly shut it down, indicating to fans that it was not OK to cheer for someone’s injury. The mean-spirited cheers quickly switched to chants for Durant.
We’ll miss you, Serge Ibaka. L.A. weather doesn’t often call for winter accessories, but we hope you’ll occasionally wear a scarf and think about us.