A. Suave Francisco
When Serge Ibaka was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics back in 2008, he was expected to be a defensive presence in the paint one day but needed to stay in Europe for another season. He was known as a shot blocker with an under-developed offensive game. Never would you imagine the player Serge Ibaka would become and never in your wildest dreams would you imagine him playing on any other team, especially after just seven years.
During Ibaka's tenure in Oklahoma City, he became beloved. If you didn't like him for his talent and calm demeanor, your significant other probably liked him because of his looks. He was an ambassador for the city for more than just his athletic ability as well.
Basketball speaking, he started off his NBA career with a lot of promise, nothing great, but a lot of promise. In the 2009-2010 season, he averaged 6.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. This was pretty expected of this 20-year-old trying to get accustomed to the NBA game. He improved every season for the following four years and by the time the 2013-2014 season came, his averages increased significantly. At 15.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game, Serge was considered a serious force in the paint that rivaled many of the league's best power forwards.
That season was his best season, and his last playing at the level he played at. Over the next two seasons, Serge just wasn't the same Serge. His numbers weren't bad, he just wasn't the same player he was in the past. He became a little too familiar with the three point line and became strangers with the paint where he built his reputation. In the following season, all his numbers went down, averaging 14.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 2014-2015 and the season after that, 12.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. As mentioned, his numbers weren't bad by any means, but he started to become a player that Oklahoma City simply didn't need anymore. They didn't need the skill-set he had to offer.
The 2015-2016 season was his last with the Thunder and it seemed like everyone knew it, including him. His body language started changing and some of his teammates' body language changed towards him as well. He was in multiple trade talks throughout the season and was finally traded to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and a draft pick that ended up being Domantas Sabonis. That trade couldn't have been better for the future of this franchise, but it hurt the Oklahoma City community to see one of it's most beloved depart.
This season, Serge has been productive for the Orlando Magic. He really fits into what they are trying to do there and OKC couldn't be more proud and supportive of him. In Sunday night's matchup, Serge literally had the game of his career by scoring a career-high 31 points and adding 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. The most significant part to that stat-line was his game-winning shot to defeat his former team 119-117.
It is clear where Serge's heart still is after his Orlando teammate and fellow Congonian Bismack Biyombo tried to rush him out of the locker room so the team could "go home." Serge replied saying, "I am home." Serge Ibaka is a class act. He's a high character guy that never got into any trouble. He is a team-player and this city has and will continue to miss him.