OKLAHOMA CITY – Although the Oklahoma City Thunder announced star forward Serge Ibaka would be sidelined with a calf injury for the rest of the season, Ibaka returned Sunday night and made a huge impact in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio.
The Thunder beat the Spurs 106-97, cutting San Antonio’s series lead to two games to one.
“Like I said, people may think I’m crazy or I’m funny,” Ibaka said. “I believe in God. With God, everything is possible.”
Some fans agreed.
“I think it was divine intervention,” fan Janis Bevers said, “and I think some good therapist.”
On Twitter, Ibaka’s pop singer girlfriend, Keri Hilson, said his quick return is thanks to “God and Ice,” to which Serge replied “Yep!”
While some professional athletes would not have wanted to risk their careers coming back so soon from an injury, Ibaka said he compares his commitment to the Thunder to a soldier’s commitment to the military.
“In the military, when they go out there to fight, when they sign (up), they sign (up) for everything. So no matter what happened last night, I signed (up) for this. That’s what I get paid for,” he said. “At the end of the day, no matter what happens, last night, after a game, or I get hurt badly, I signed (up) for this.”
It’s that dedication to his teammates, who were blown out twice in San Antonio in Games One and Two, that makes Ibaka a fan favorite.
Fan Gavin Kokel said, “The fact that he came back and was able to go, what, five for six, and have that much impact on the game says a lot of about his character.”
One fan even said Ibaka is the new MVP.
“Really?” Ibaka replied Monday at practice. “No. Kevin (Durant) is the real MVP. I’m just a helper.”
Ibaka said he didn’t feel any more pain when he woke up Monday morning and he expects to play even better in Game Four.
The Thunder will try to tie the Western Conference Finals at two games apiece Tuesday night at 8 p.m.