In articles in SI and The Player’s Tribune, Serge Ibaka discussed a range of topics, including KD’s work ethic, his reaction the trade that sent him to Orlando, and his feelings following the devastating loss in the Western Conference Finals.
On KD’s work ethic:
“One story I like to tell about my time in OKC is about when I first got there. I wanted to try to impress the coaches by being the first player at practice. I remember Coach Brooks had told us that practice started at 11 a.m., so I showed up at the practice facility at 10, confident that I’d be the first person there. But KD was already on the court, getting up shots. He was already there working up a sweat.
So, the next morning, I thought, O.K., I’m going to show up even earlier. Maybe around 9:30. I’ll definitely be the first one there.
The third morning, I thought, I’m going to get there two hours early, 9 a.m.
Guess what? KD was already there, working. He must have turned the lights on.”
On the trade to Orlando:
“When I woke up that Friday, I checked my phone and saw that I had missed calls from my agent, manager and dad. That’s when I knew that the rumors must have been true, and that my time in Oklahoma City had come to an end. I called my manager, who asked me to meet him in the hotel lobby. There he told me that I had been traded to the Magic. I spent most of that day on phone speaking to different people, including Orlando GM Rob Hennigan. He used to work for the Thunder, and I’ve known him for a while. He told me how happy he was to add me to the team, how he trusted me and believed in me. That conversation made me feel good about my new opportunity and the future.
I never asked to be traded, even though there was a lot of media conjecture that I was unhappy with my role. I had an exit meeting with Billy Donovan and Sam Presti after the season, and both went well. But this is still a business, everybody has to do what’s best for them, and I let my agent deal with the business side of things. I just focus on basketball. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to go in and ask for a trade, and I would have been happy staying with the Thunder. Playing in the NBA was my dream, and I’d be happy playing anywhere.”
On the loss to Golden State in the Western Conference Finals:
“It took me a long time to get over our loss to the Golden State Warriors. Up 3–1 in the Western Conference finals, we had them. Honestly, I’m still not over it, but I couldn’t talk about that series, or basketball, for a couple of weeks afterward. During the NBA Finals, friends came over to watch one of the games, but seeing the Warriors on the screen got me so upset I had to leave.
It was actually my 10-year-old daughter who finally snapped me out of my funk. We were out at dinner one night, and a TV was showing the Finals. I kept turning my head, trying to avoid watching, and my daughter saw how unhappy I was.
“It’s O.K., Daddy,” she said. “You did everything you could.”
Hearing that from someone I love brought me back to life. I realized it was time to get on with my life and take advantage of the summer. NBA players don’t get that much time off, so it’s important to take advantage of what little vacation we get to spend time with our families and refuel our souls.”
On moving to Oklahoma City from Spain:
“The SuperSonics drafted me in the first round in 2008.
I couldn’t go to the NBA right away. Seattle wanted me to play one more year in Spain in the first division, so I did. After that year, the Sonics moved to Oklahoma.
I knew nothing about Oklahoma.
But as it turned out, moving there was a gift. If I hadn’t lived in Oklahoma my first year, I would have been been lost. Oklahoma City was the best place I could have been. The city embraced me with opens arms. I realized right away that it was a community of genuinely good people who cared about me.
The organization — the people in it care about you first, not basketball. Ayanna Clinton, who managed player appearances and services — and who I call my sister — made sure I felt at home and helped me learn English. Scotty Brooks was the coach, and he was so patient with me as I figured out a new league, new language and new country.
And the fans were incredible! They were passionate and unconditionally loyal. I loved playing for them. Every time we returned from a road game at 2 a.m. and there were fans at the airport, I realized how lucky we were as a team.”