Serge Ibaka comes from a different world than any other NBA player. Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo to be specific. A world of refugees and war crimes. He was born number 15 out of 18 siblings. Yes, you read that right, 18. For him, basketball was a real escape.
He came to the NBA with a ton of raw skills, a athletic fit with the young Thunder, but almost no English.
“Last June, when we first brought him over, I had, quite frankly, just a tough time communicating with him,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He spoke very little English. It was like [he starts with hand gestures] “run fast,” “jump high,” “block shot.” It was really just a lot of visuals …
“Now I can talk to him, I might have to say it twice or three times to make sure he understands it. But he is fearless, a fierce competitor.”
Whatever Brooks has done has worked, Ibaka has grown throughout the season and been a revelation in the playoffs, dominating Lamar Odom for the first four games.
“Ibaka is a talented athlete, he’s done a really good job on Lamar,” Phil Jackson admitted.
Ibaka’s also taking weekly English classes, Brooks said. Pretty soon his English may be good enough for Jackson to start trying to play mind games with him through the media.
Sevyn Streeter said the 76ers prevented her from singing the national anthem at tonight’s game because she was wearing a “WE MATTER” jersey:
“The Philadelphia 76ers organization encourages meaningful actions to drive social change. We use our games to bring people together, to build trust and to strengthen our communities. As we move from symbolic gestures to action, we will continue to leverage our platform to positively impact our community.”
This is a continuation of Carmelo Anthony‘s argument: The emphasis should be on action in communities and there’s no longer a place for gestures like Colin Kaepernick kneeling.
But this needn’t be an either/or discussion. Community-based action is obviously important (though don’t assign responsibility to NBA players to fix racism). Recognizing the width and depth of the problem is necessary – which is why symbols matter, too.
Take Street’s shirt at face value. “We matter.” “Black lives matter.” What’s so offensive about that? There is no implicit “more” attached.
Yet, the 76ers found it antithetical to their brand.
This is why the widespread “unity” message preached by arm-locking NBA players left so much to be desired.
To the 76ers, unity meant silencing Streeter.
Is that what players were demonstrating on behalf of during the preseason? I’m sure that arena was much more united with a 76ers dancer singing the anthem than it would have been with Streeter spotlighted. But sometimes divisiveness is necessary to advance a cause.
If the 76ers don’t want Streeter using their platform to say “WE MATTER,” that’s their right. Not everyone has to support that choice, though.
No NBA players followed Colin Kaepernick’s lead by kneeling during the national anthem in the preseason.
But that courageous form of protest still found its way onto NBA courts.
A national-anthem singer knelt before a Kings game, and other did at a Heat game.
Another singer wanted to take a bold stance for the 76ers’ regular-season opener against the Thunder tonight by wearing a “WE MATTER” jersey, but she said the team stopped her.
A 76ers dancer performed the anthem instead:
The 76ers deserve some latitude to choose how someone uses their platform. But what about claiming black lives matter is antithetical to the 76ers’ brand?
The team did not immediately respond to request for comment. I will update if it does.
The Russell Westbrook era didn’t get off to the fastest start for the Thunder, who fell behind the 76ers early.
This Philadelphia fan got way ahead of himself (and any reasonable standard of decency).
Via Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report:
Oklahoma City responded with a 5-0 run, Westbrook scoring three points himself and assisting another basket.
The No. 28 pick, R.J. Hunter became the first first-rounder from last year’s draft to fall out of the NBA when the Celtics waived him.
He won’t be out of the league for long.
The Bulls, the only team with an open roster spot, appear close to adding him.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Hunter belongs in the league. Though he must knock down shots far more reliably than he has, Hunter has potential as an outside shooter with complementary ball skills to provide value. Boston just had more NBA-caliber players than roster spots.
He’s far from a lock to succeed in the NBA, but I value Hunter about as much as Tony Snell – whom the Bulls just traded for an upgrade at backup point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. That they could so cheaply replace Snell makes that deal look even better.