Serge Ibaka Q&A: Food, fashion, and being 'Mr. International'
In the midst of one of the best starts to a season in his 10-year career, Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka dropped into theScore's offices for the debut episode of "Thanks For Stopping By." In between answering fan questions and drumming up the courage to taste exotic delicacies, Ibaka discussed a variety of topics.
Here are some of the soundbites from the cutting room floor.
Off the court
On the elusive meaning of Mafuzzy: Maybe next time (I'll tell you). We'd have to do a special episode just for that. Mafuzzy means a lot of things. It's a world.
On being multilingual: They call me Mr. International. I speak four languages; Lingala, French, Spanish, English, and a little bit of Catalan, that's from Barcelona - so four-and-a-half. I had to (teach myself Spanish), I didn't have a choice. No lessons, I just picked it up when I was in Spain.
On Mr. International's love for Toronto: Toronto fits me perfect. You have a lot of people from all parts of the world, different cultures. I just love it, man. Every time I ask someone 'where are you from?' ... 'Oh, I'm from Russia,' or 'I'm from Greece,' or 'I'm Italian.' I never met somebody who says 'I'm from Toronto,' or 'I'm from Canada.' That's the beautiful part of living here.
On the mission of his charity work: The Ibaka Foundation focuses on kids and orphanages. I lost my mom when I was 7. I know how hard it is to live without your mom or your dad, or both parents. At one point, I was on the street. From that moment, I always told myself, 'one day, if I make it, I'm gonna come back and give these kids the things and opportunity I didn't have.' In Toronto, we try to work with kids from the children's hospital. I did the same thing in Oklahoma City. Everywhere I live, everywhere I feel like home, I have to do something.
On his custom shoes featuring the flags of both Congos: My mom was from Democratic Republic of Congo. My dad is from Republic of Congo, and I was born there, too, in Brazzaville, but I always try to represent both Congos, because I want to represent my mom. Even though I wasn't born there (in DRC), I feel an obligation to represent my mom, too.
On the outfit he showed up in for a national TV game last month: That was to represent Africa. I don't like to be the kind of guy that when they make it, they try to forget where they come from. No matter what the situation I have right now, I'm still the kid who came from Congo, from Africa. I play for the Spanish national team, but they know and they respect that I come from Africa. I feel so proud of that, and it's my job to show the kids in Africa. When I grew up, it was hard to believe that someone can come from Africa and be big time or make it outside. I try to show kids, listen, I was born and raised in Africa. I call myself 100 percent pure man - original man from the motherland. Mafuzzy.
On the court
On the assumption OKC would get back to The Finals after 2012 loss: We were thinking the same thing, too, because we knew we were young and had talent. We were thinking, 'you know what, we'll be back.' But one thing I learned (from that), is when you have the opportunity, you have to go for it, man.
On the offseason changes in Toronto, and playing center full time: No matter what the situation is or the changes are, if we're winning, that's most important. You can't make changes and then start losing. That's when everyone gets frustrated. But if you change things, and it's the best for the team, like right now, everybody's going to be happy and ready to go.
On playing with Kawhi Leonard: Man, that boy ... I don't even think he's 100 percent yet. I just can't wait to see him at 100 percent. It's going to be scary. He gives us a lot on both ends of the floor.
'How Hungry Are You?'
On his pitch to land Kawhi as a guest: I spoke with him about wanting to get him on my show so people can see his different side. I told him a lot of kids love him. When they see him, they think about the (media day) laugh or the serious face, but actually, he has different personalities. What you see on TV, that's when he's working. He's a nice guy, a normal guy like everybody else. We talk about funny stuff and laugh. I want him on my show so kids can see a different side of him. He agreed with me and said he would love to do it. Now it's about timing. The season started so we're busier working.
On the unique food featured in "How Hungry Are You?": You may not eat those types of foods, but a lot of people somewhere eat those types of food. It's food, man. One thing I love about my show is the guests, no matter the food, they always try it. It shows me the value of respecting every food from every country. When people see a food from their country on my show, they get happy. I try to mix (food) from different parts of the world.
His dream guest: Will Smith. That's my dream. If I can get Will Smith on my cooking show - I see all the things he's done on Youtube - If I can get him ... wow. I'm not working on it, but anything is possible.
On the inspiration behind "How Hungry Are You?": I know how to cook. I learned from my dad. One day we were home, and I decided with my friend, Jordi, I would like to do a video of me cooking and just post it. I would say, 'I'm gonna do it,' then say 'I'm not gonna do it.' I was waiting. Then one day I had the inspiration. I knew a lot of people have cooking shows online, but I wanted to do something different, where it could be funny. That's when I came up with "How Hungry Are You?" and worms and chicken feet. Right now, (the guests) are just my friends. I book them myself. DeMar (DeRozan), that really was big for me to have DeMar, (Romelu) Lukaku, even Bismack (Biyombo), our young guys from the (Raptors). It's big time. It helps the show and gives me more energy and desire to keep doing it.
On the power of food: When I was young, at my grandma's house, we used to have one big (family style) plate, and everyone would eat together. To me, food is powerful, to bring people together, to laugh.
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