Serge Ibaka understands why Kevin Durant decided to join the Warriors, he just didn't expect it.
His former teammate made shockwaves back in July that are still being felt in the basketball world and despite joining a new team in Orlando, Ibaka continues to field questions about KD's decision. But basketball isn't the only thing that consumes Ibaka, who hails from the Republic of Congo and is determined to give back to his homeland in any way he can.
Through the Serge Ibaka Foundation, he's not only returning to his hometown of Brazzaville to visit, but also provide valuable resources to orphanages and people of need in the area. During his trip in July, Ibaka and members of his foundation visited two orphanages, holding activities such as the "Ibaka Games" where kids were able to go through a basketball clinic before an all-star game. Along with Ibaka's foundation, he's also launched the "Serge Ibaka Dreams Academy" which puts young kids from the Congo in a position to not only succeed from playing basketball, but allows them to get an education.
Complex Sports caught up with Ibaka to chat about his foundation and the impact it has in his native land, his new team in Orlando, and his reaction to Durant choosing the Warriors.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What would you say is your favorite part of the trip?
Just to be out there and showing people from Congo that no matter what I never forget where I come from. I want to try and share my blessings with them. Just to be there and make them dream. Make them dream big because I remember when I was young, I didn't have those types of inspirations. When I was young, I never heard of anyone doing this, a pro basketball player coming back home and going to the orphanage and giving back. I'm the first person doing that and I feel like for those young kids, just seeing me out there it's like wow to them and that's what I want. I want them to see that, I want them to believe. I want them to know that I came from where they are and am no different. I didn't grow up in the States, I was born here like you, I grew up here like you.
Outside of basketball, what opportunities are you trying to bring kids with your "Serge Ibaka Dreams Academy?"
I want to give them the chance to go to school and get a better education. If they make it in basketball, great, but they can also reach their dreams in different ways. I want to give them the opportunity to get a better education. That's why we started the "Dream Academy." To make them dream, to make them have a better future.
How would you like to see the "Dream Academy" grow in the future?
I tell my people, and I spoke with adidas. My vision for the academy is for it to not only be kids from the Congo. I want it to reach all of Africa. To give all the kids throughout Africa an opportunity and not just in the Congo. To have a better education and a real chance.
Switching gears, how are you feeling going into the season with a new team?
It feels great, man. In my mind, this almost feels like my first rookie year. I'm fresh and sometimes change is just good for you. I'm excited, been working out really hard for the upcoming season. We have a young team with a bright future and I want to bring what I learned the seven years in Oklahoma City and make the team better.
The Magic have one of the more interesting front courts in the NBA, with you Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo, and Nikola Vucevic. How excited are you to be part of that?
Yeah, I'm very excited. I know it's going to be very fun being with those guys.
What he thinks makes him happy, makes his family happy, that matters. We have to accept that and from the position of Oklahoma City, from the team, it's tough if your star leaves like that and I understand that.
Speaking of the seven years with the Thunder, did you have a sense that Kevin Durant was going to leave?
No, not really. And it's tough for him. It's tough to make that kind of decision and it's not easy, but at the end of the day he needs to do what makes him happy. What he thinks makes him happy, makes his family happy, that matters. We have to accept that and from the position of Oklahoma City, from the team, it's tough if your star leaves like that and I understand that. But, there's some stuff in life that we can't control. The fans in Oklahoma City and the team can't control that and if that makes Kevin Durant happy, then good for him.
Were you personally surprised by his move?
Yeah, of course you're going to be surprised. But, as I say again, if that's going to make him happy then that's good. Everyone should be happy, that's why we play this game. To have fun and if that's the case for him, then good for him.
When did you know you wanted to give back in such a major way to the Congo?
The way I grew up, everything in my life, and I always believed that I was going to make it because I always believed in me. So since then, I am always thinking that I have to do something and now it's happening in a big way. I feel happy. There's not a lot of people in this position, to be able to change people's lives and I'm one of them who have that power in my hands. I can save someone's life and in different ways. That's the best because not everybody has that. I feel that power myself.
Does the lack of coverage of some of the things going on in Africa bother you?
Yeah, what is happening in Beni in the Congo. I hope and wish that the world knew and were talking about that. Like CNN because man, people are dying. People are dying every day out there, hundreds of people get killed like animals. And nobody is talking about it and it's kinda sad. Stuff like that, CNN has to talk about, but they don't know. They just don't know. Don't tell me you don't know about that. It's just sad. People are dying like animals. Kids. They don't have food.