You’ll notice Serge Ibaka, formerly of the Toronto Raptors, is now a Los Angeles Clipper. How did that come to be? Funny you should ask.
Well-known for his defensive prowess, Ibaka knows Kawhi Leonard from his previous tenure with the Raptors, overlapping one season in Toronto. Their lone season together was plenty memorable, resulting in the franchise’s first—and so far, only—NBA championship in 2019. Ibaka must have enjoyed that experience because he jumped at the chance to reunite with his former Raptors teammate this offseason, defecting to the Clippers on a two-year, $19-million deal.
As evidenced by this gem courtesy of Ibaka’s YouTube page, the 31-year-old is one of the few people capable of coaxing more than a one-word response out of the famously tightlipped Kawhi. So what was Leonard’s recruiting pitch to the Congan-born seven-footer? As you might expect from the two-time Finals MVP, it wasn’t particularly elaborate.
“He texted me, ‘Hey, what’s up?’” recalls Ibaka. “A moment later, ‘Bro, are you coming or no?’”
Talk about an economy of words. Leonard is apparently the Ernest Hemingway of free-agent pitches. Short and … well, not that sweet. Impersonal as their exchange was, you have to admit, there may be a method to Leonard’s madness. It got Ibaka, a two-time NBA blocks leader and three-time All-Defense selection, to Los Angeles, didn’t it?
Kawhi: fun guy and master of the hard sell.