Napoleon Bonaparte carved Europe into one of many largest empires the world has ever seen. He ended the fear of the French Revolution. He applied a code of legislation nonetheless utilized in elements of the world, such because the Canadian province of Quebec. Any of these achievements can be good bets for what he’s come to characterize to the general public in the present day.
However all can be incorrect. In on a regular basis parlance, Napoleon is finest recognized for being quick and type of a dick about it. See: Napoleon Complicated. All this to say, it’s not at all times sure what we come to characterize over the fullness of time.
With information that Serge Ibaka signed a one-year deal to play with Bayern Munchen, it’s unlikely that the champion will ever play within the NBA once more. Hampered by accidents for a couple of seasons, the 34-year-old hasn’t been a outstanding rotation participant within the NBA for simply as lengthy.
However for a few years, the backbone of the ever-shifting NBA ran by means of Ibaka-like fault strains, each on and off the court docket. He could have had larger-than-life (and MVP-winning) teammates in Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant in his early days in Oklahoma Metropolis, however arguably none of them outlined life within the NBA — and altered in accordance with it — like Ibaka.
When Serge Ibaka first entered the NBA in 2009, he was a high-flying large who shot no three-pointers and blocked each shot that entered his orbit. In some methods, he represented a final gasp of a dying period dominated by such bigs. The league itself averaged solely 18 3-point makes an attempt per sport.
It’s arduous to overstate the extent of Ibaka’s shot-blocking prowess early in his profession. Since his rookie yr in 2009-10, Ibaka registered two of the 4 seasons with the best blocks per sport. His 5 seasons averaging 2.4 blocks or extra per sport led the league in such seasons over that point interval — and he did all of it in simply the primary six years of his profession.
However Ibaka developed shortly. He blocked almost 10 instances extra photographs than triples he tried in his first 5 seasons, however for the rest of his profession he shot twice as many triples as he recorded swats. He dipped his toe into taking pictures threes in his fourth season, becoming a member of a vanguard of taking pictures bigs led by Dirk Nowitzki. By 2014-15, he was launching greater than three such photographs per sport, among the many 10 league leaders in frequency at his top or taller. Then in 2020 his career-defining second got here on a stick-the-landing 3-pointer throughout a championship run.
(His triple from that nook, after all, was overshadowed by a teammate’s later within the sport.)
The expansion in Ibaka’s sport mirrored tendencies throughout the league. He entered the NBA as a non-shooting energy ahead and left it as a taking pictures heart. Throughout the league in 2014-15, facilities tried 1,640 triples within the common season, in response to Second Spectrum. By 2018-19, that quantity had nearly tripled to 4,462. Ibaka himself posted up a lot much less and have become extra of a pick-and-roll large and a ground spacer. He blocked fewer photographs and rebounded extra misses.
However Ibaka’s significance inside the NBA is arguably extra profound off the court docket than on it. He was a locker-room chief and culture-setter. For years throughout Toronto’s pre-game introductions, it might be Ibaka ready on the court docket to dap each starter after they had been introduced. His significance additionally prolonged far past the boundaries of his personal groups.
When he was drafted in 2008 (he spent a yr overseas after being drafted), NBA style existed in a distinct world from in the present day. Pants had been lengthy and dishevelled, if not fairly to the extent they had been a decade earlier, and fits on draft night time had been usually reserved for muted tones like grey, black, and beige.
Ibaka helped usher in a brand new period. Trend is one in every of his passions. He has by no means been related to phrases like “muted” or “reserved,” and also you’re extra prone to discover Ibaka in orange or yellow fits than black or grey. As he has been wont to say again and again, Ibaka doesn’t do style; he does artwork. And since Ibaka’s popularization of carrying completely fitted and custom-designed assertion items, gamers throughout the league have expanded their outfits into new territory. Ibaka, as at all times, has been on the forefront. His dedication to style was additionally hilarious, similar to when he turned teammate O.G. Anunoby onto scarves.
Ibaka’s artistry spreads past style, as he dabbled as an expert prepare dinner in his collection How Hungry Are You. His crowning achievement there was arguably feeding beef penis pizza to Kawhi Leonard whereas conducting a fluid, revealing interview that may make ESPN heavies jealous.
Many NBA gamers see media duties as an annoying and vacuous a part of the job, like a guardian views altering diapers. It needs to be accomplished, so plug your nostril and sing their favourite track. Ibaka appeared like one such participant when he first arrived in Toronto in 2017. However when he found the wage disparity between reporters and gamers, he instantly reworked into an open and eloquent speaker in scrums. He grew to become among the best quotes on the staff.
For all his empathy and kindness in direction of media members, the reverse hasn’t at all times been true. Excessive-profile media members helped unfold the NBA’s model of birtherism about Ibaka, questioning the validity of his beginning certificates as a result of he hailed from the Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Ibaka ultimately put out a assertion ridiculing the rumors, saying he was “not born within the jungle.” However since Ibaka’s draft, many extra gamers have joined the league from Africa, together with stars like Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam. Ibaka has lengthy seen himself as an envoy for African gamers; he engraved his championship ring with a silhouette of the continent.
Ibaka actually wasn’t the primary African NBA participant, however he helped crack open the gates for many who have adopted. And there have been few, if any, high-profile xenophobic age criticisms hooked up to them.
It’s inconceivable to know the way Ibaka can be remembered years from now, what ghosts his title will conjure within the barbershop. We will’t predict what we’ll come to characterize. For Ibaka, it could possibly be scarves or beef penis, blocked photographs or three-pointers. It could possibly be a championship in Toronto or an absence of 1 in Oklahoma Metropolis. However folks can be speaking about him. Ibaka has been a core definer of the NBA’s zeitgeist ever since becoming a member of the league, and he’s accomplished it in uncountable methods. The NBA will miss him, however Ibaka will proceed pushing the frontier of participant life in EuroLeague.
These issues are sure. The one uncertainty is how Ibaka will reinvent himself subsequent.