Serge Ibaka overcame adversity to wear championship ring

Jan 16, 2020 | Campus News

Toronto Raptor Serge Ibaka speaking to students at an IGNITE Real Talks event Jan. 11 at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus. (Ashley Radcliffe)
Ashley Radcliffe

Toronto Raptors power forward Serge Ibaka strutted his way down to Humber College’s Lakeshore campus on Saturday evening to talk to students about success.

And despite his success as a basketball player and his diamond-encrusted NBA Championship ring, the seven-foot-tall baller remembers clearly the road he took to get to where he is now.

“My past is what made me who I am today and it made me stronger,” he said.

“I don’t give up because of what I went through when I was younger. If I can survive that, I think that I can survive anything,” Ibaka said.

Humber College is known to host many famous athletes, but this time it was Toronto’s very own 2019 NBA champion as a guest at the IGNITE Real Talks event Jan. 11 in A Building to talk about how he became the multi-talented individual that he is today.

He truly believes “anything is possible” after becoming the first NBA player from the Republic of Congo and becoming a champion. Indeed, it’s become his mantra.

Ibaka escaped a childhood of poverty and violence to become the man he is today.

“People in my family use to tell me to stop playing basketball, ‘you’re wasting your time, and that basketball is going to take you nowhere,’” he said. “At the time it was kind of true because we didn’t have big time basketball players where I’m from.”

Although Ibaka had family members who doubted his abilities, he said people can achieve by believing anything is possible.

“I refused to think like that back in the day,” Ibaka said. “I said I’m not playing basketball just to waste my time. And I believed that anything is possible and that I’m going to go and try.”

But sometimes confidence needs support and he has launched the Serge Ibaka Foundation, a non-profit foundation that raises funds that go towards education and health care for people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Ibaka isn’t just an all-star player who heads a foundation, but he’s also known “Mafuzzy Chef” on his own YouTube channel called “How Hungry Are You?” The show, launched about eight years ago, allowed Ibaka to get cutting edge stories from Hollywood celebrities and veteran NBA players.

Serge Ibaka tells Humber students the Toronto Raptors are going to win a second championship during an IGNITE Real Talks event Jan. 11 at Humber College Lakeshore campus. (Ashley Radcliffe)

It went viral in 2019. Ibaka politely acknowledged of all the people he interviewed, San Antonio Spur and former Raptor player DeMar DeRozan had to be his personal favourite.

Although many may think that cooking crazy foods — like alligator claws and fish eyes — is one of his many specialties, Ibaka is also known for having a runway quality style.

Ibaka has taken over social media platforms such as Instagram with his unique outfits, and has become a trendsetter by captioning his chic posts with “Avec Classé.”

His witty personality resonated with Humber students and sparked some interesting questions.

“Will the Toronto Raptors become champions this year?” business student Justin Lombardo asked Ibaka,

Ibaka’s response, of course, was simple and to the point: “Yes.”

“His answer was obvious, but it’s not every day you get to speak with a Toronto Raptor and I’m just happy that our school gives us opportunities like this,” Lombardo said.

Many of the students and guests peppered him with questions based on their love of basketball, but they also were intrigued by how Ibaka was able to achieve so much based on where he came from.

On a more lighthearted conversation with fashion management student Stephanie McGregor, she asked Ibaka about his favourite place to travel.

“After the season the first place that I like to go is back home first, of course. But then after that, I go to Mykonos, Greece because it’s beautiful. Also, I like to go to Barcelona because I use to live in Barcelona,” Ibaka said.

McGregor said she  asked him the question because “I know he has had the opportunity to live in more than one country, and knows multiple languages.”