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Toronto Raptors Players Have Many Talents Off The Court, Too

Did you know about Serge Ibaka's cooking show?
Yes, this truly is a photo of Kawhi Leonard smiling and holding a rubber chicken.
Yes, this truly is a photo of Kawhi Leonard smiling and holding a rubber chicken.

Yes, they can shoot buckets, put up with Drake, and will never have to worry about anyone blocking their view at a concert. But the Toronto Raptors players have many more talents than just being tall, patient and good at basketball.

From preparing beef penis to surprising musical careers to hidden comedic genius, here are some of the Raptors players who excel off the court.

Serge Ibaka

The true Renaissance man of the team, Ibaka is a foodie and a clotheshorse who can speak four languages. Oh yeah, and he’s 6′10 and a professional basketball player. NBD.

Growing up in the Congo, Ibaka spoke Lingala and French. He moved to France and then to Spain as a teen, so naturally he learned Spanish as well. And we don’t know at what point he learned English, but that’s in the mix, too.

In fact, Ibaka is so linguistically able that he’s started inventing words. As you may have noticed in the above Tweet, he uses “mafuzzy” for just about everything, although no one knows what exactly it means.

“One day I will reveal to the world what it means,” he told Sharp last fall. “Ma fuzzy man! I’m a mystery man. I come from nowhere.”

He also hosts a YouTube cooking show called “How Hungry Are You?” where he chats with his teammates about basketball and then gets them to try dishes like sautéed worms or Philly cheesesteak made of beef testicles. On it, he calls himself — you guessed it — “Mafuzzy chef.”

But just in case you’re starting to think he might be too inaccessible or fancy, know that after the Raptors’ series win against the Milwaukee Bucks in late May, he was spotted getting late-night Chinese food at Rol San, a Toronto institution that stays open until 4 a.m.

Stars: they’re just like us! Except for the part where they win basketball games.

And in case that isn’t enough, Ibaka is a fashion guy, too. He’s said he owes his sharp fashion sense to “sapologie,” a subculture of finely-dressed men that originated in the Congo.

Pascal Siakam

Another Francophone! Siakam is from Cameroon, and doesn’t get enough questions in his native language for his liking.

Sports media: ask Siakam more questions in French! He loves it, and gives great, charming answers.

And while he’s not as consistently a flashy dresser like Ibaka, Siakam does also sometimes choose to rep his home country in his fashion sense.

Marc Gasol

Like several of his teammates, Gasol is a polyglot. Because he was born and raised in Spain and moved to the U.S. as a teen, he’s fluent in English, Spanish and Catalan.

That isn’t his most impressive feat, though. Last summer, before the joined up with the Raptors, Gasol volunteered with Open Arms, a Spanish NGO that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean.

Another part of the job is collective bodies of people who have died trying to reach safety. While Gasol was on board, one of the shipwrecked bodies belonged to a toddler. He’ll never forget that, he told the Guardian.

“I have children,” he said. “And I imagine the pain of a father who is forced to face a journey like this where one risks everything, one risks one’s own life, to reach a country where one can live in peace and with dignity.”

Danny Green

Green has a side hustle as a podcaster, as one of the hosts of Inside the Green Room with Yahoo Sports Canada.

He’s also tried his hand at being a sports commentator, and has indicated that he might want a career in broadcasting after he retires from basketball.

Beyond that, he’s also very skilled in dancing like Dad.

Norman Powell

He may be a budding piano prodigy. Or it may just be an obligation he couldn’t get out of? It isn’t immediately clear.

In 2017, Powell did an ad for the creepily named webhosting service GoDaddy where he appeared to be playing a beautiful tune on the piano. But when the camera panned to the keys, it turned out he was actually just playing a file on his computer.

Former Raptors player Jonas Valanciunas was also a spokesperson for the company, but the product he “sold” on his GoDaddy website, tiny Raptors figurines he called Itty Bitty Ballers, was obviously a joke.

Powell, on the other hand, did actually release a song, called “No Problem.”

“When I’m not putting in work on the court, I’m having fun exercising my skills and creating potential hits on the piano,” he wrote in a since-deleted statement.

“It started as a hobby but now I consider it my second passion.”

Joke? Real passion? You may as well listen and see if you do in fact detect a problem.

Jeremy Lin

It’s been a while since he updated his YouTube channel. But when he regularly posted memes, read fan mail and played basketball with his dad, the channel was ultra-popular.

He’s also something of a hairstyle maverick, cycling from long hair to short hair to spikes to a bowl cut to a fade to dreadlocks, something that caused Serge Ibaka to wonder if Lin was on drugs (“Don’t do drugs!” Lin replied).

In fact, he wasn’t on drugs, but was trying to express himself. In an essay for The Players’ Tribune, Lin explained that the wacky hairstyles came from questions he had about his own identity after “Linsanity” died down and he became increasingly frustrated with people focusing exclusively on his Chinese heritage rather than his skill.

“I had never really deeply considered how something as seemingly personal as my hair — as an Asian-American NBA player — could affect anyone else,” he wrote about his choice to get dreads, explaining that his intention was to honour and not appropriate, and that he was open to hearing feedback from fans of all backgrounds.

Oh yeah, and if all that wasn’t enough, he also graduated from Harvard.

Kyle Lowry

When he’s not playing arguably the coolest game in sports, he may be playing the least cool sport: golf.

Yup, Lowry is an avid golfer. “I have an opportunity to play some of the best courses ever,” he told sports outlet The Undefeated in 2017. “I can go and play and travel the world playing basketball and travel the world more playing golf. You appreciate it.”

He’s also something of a style guy, having designed a line for the ultra-Canadian brand Roots, with items named after some of his favourite areas in Toronto. “It’s made for the city of Toronto,” he told the Toronto Star.

And he’s been seen out and about in Louboutin boots.

Kawhi Leonard

The Raptors’ new star player breaks the mold a bit for basketball players. In a league where many athletes aren’t afraid to have big personalities, and many are outspoken politically, we don’t know a huge amount about Leonard, aside from the fact that he’s both very talented and very stoic.

But one of the few times he’s spoken at length to the press has been to talk about the legacy of Earl Lloyd, the first black player in the NBA. In 2017, he produced a documentary about Lloyd. He also appeared in the movie, and went on to host screenings for the public.

Sports commentators see his respect for Lloyd extending to Leonard’s charitable contributions. He hosts a youth basketball camp in California, donated a car he won to a children’s charity, regularly visited kids at San Antonio’s Ronald McDonald House, and has spoken at length about the importance of giving back.

And this next fact is truly the most shocking of all.

In addition to his incredible and idiosyncratic catchphrase choices, he might actually ... be funny?

Let’s back up. For years now, the San Antonio Spurs have had a partnership with HEB, a Texas grocery store chain. Due to what we can only assume is some contract magic, the Spurs’ top players appear in a wide variety of TV commercials for the company. They all have largely the same dad-joke sensibility — guileless and goofy, usually relying on one or more of the players doing something wacky.

Given that Leonard was on the Spurs for seven years, he’s been in a number of them, and he’s genuinely funny! And even more confusingly, he almost looks like he’s having a good time.

In this one, he has a questionable grasp of origami:

He looks more proud of that snowball than he’s ever been when he makes a game-winning shot.

Check out his comedic timing here:

In this next one, he enthusiastically says, “Opa!”

And in this one, he shows off his vocabulary:

See more here, if you can handle the sidesplitting comedy:

And those, folks, are your Toronto Raptors. Opa!

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