Serge Ibaka could play for his third different team in a year after he was traded by the Thunder in the summer of 2016, and then sent to the Raptors at the trade deadline. He’s an unrestricted free agent now, but teams are questioning his value after he wasn’t able to boost the Raptors into Eastern Conference contention. That’s fair. But teams are also questioning the 27-year-old’s age. That isn’t.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe spoke about it on his podcast with Jordan Brenner:
As uncomfortable as it is to say that, the league, not the league office, teams, believe that [Serge Ibaka] is older than his listed age. Whether he is or not, and what are the ethical issues of saying that, I don't know, but it affects the free agency market for him."
These rumors have followed a number of international NBA players including most recently, Thon Maker.
Ibaka responded on Twitter on Saturday:
I am proud of where I come from and of my heritage. I am also very proud of the hard work I put to arrive to where I am right now as a basketball player.
I am very disappointed with the small part of society that spreads rumors and creates news based on stereotypes and without any proof. I’m sad that to this day there are still prejudices based on your origin and, as Africans, sometimes we need to take a stand.
I was born in the capital of the Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. A city with a population bigger than 1 million. A city with hospitals, a civil registry and an administration. I was born in a caring, loving and united family. I was not born in the jungle.
I know we live in a fast news world, where rumors and scoops rule, but I think meda should take their responsibility seriously when talking about important maters that can hurt people. I know who I am and were I come from, and so do the people that really know me.
I’m sad that many people will have read a rumor and will have made a false assumption that can last forever, while they maybe will not read what I’m writing now. What’s sure is that, no matter what, nobody can take away from me the pride for my origins and the love that I have basketball.
It’s good that Ibaka responded to these claims, even though he himself recognized that not everyone will see it. This should at least make everyone who does think twice before making a senseless joke.
In the past, there has never been any proof to claims that international players were misleading management about their ages even though others have had similar accusations leveled at them. There’s no reason to believe Ibaka has been either.