Serge Ibaka has been granted Spanish nationality, clearing the way for the Oklahoma City Thunder forward to play for Spain in the upcoming EuroBasket 2011. Ibaka was born in the Republic of the Congo, but moved to Spain to pursue basketball as a teenager and played there professionally before joining the Thunder.
He joins an already formidable team who won gold at EuroBasket 2009 in Poland and features -- assuming health and insurance -- Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez. Spain is ranked second in the world behind the United States and is looking to bounce back from a very disappointing sixth-place finish at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey. In that tournament, surprising losses in group play to France and Lithuania led to a tough seed in the knockouts; Spain survived a test against Greece but fell to rising power Serbia. Argentina later beat out Spain for fifth place.
Ibaka is under contract with the Thunder, so it's unclear who will pay for his insurance. Due to the ongoing NBA lockout, teams cannot communicate with their players. If Ibaka were to get injured in FIBA play, his NBA contract could be subject to voiding without an agreement. As such, most NBA players participating in Olympic qualifying tournaments are expected to grab insurance if possible.