When we conceived of this recurring column here, it was done in a spirit of good faith. We were convinced that each week some Raptors incident or play or whatever would have the necessary Fun and Good qualifications to make the entire endeavour worthwhile. When it began, we didn’t know if that would be true — nevertheless, as a team, we forged ahead.
Fast forward three months, and look how far we’ve come. Today, I literally could not decide which highlight to choose. It was a literal embarrassment of riches. There were just too many!
Could we reflect on the uproarious ridiculousness of DeMar DeRozan’s full court sprint, dunk, and decapitation of the Detroit Pistons (and the subsequent Kyle Lowry reaction)? Or was there something to Fred VanVleet’s hustle in the face of Chris Paul’s cranky eggheaded-ness? Dare we go back to the Jonas Valanciunas well once again, with some of his latest subtle work? There are so many questions to answer here.
Ultimately I decided to highlight Serge Ibaka, who hasn’t graced the annals of the Fun and Good highlight at all since the column started. This owes itself to Ibaka’s usual self-contained, and largely un-flashy style of play — he works in the pick-and-pop, he finishes dunks when they’re there, he sometimes gets testy (which isn’t entirely fun and good, to be honest), and he generally handles business.
But then, there are the Serge Ibaka blocks. See below (or, uh, Ibaka’s entire career retrospective.)
Let 'em know, @sergeibaka pic.twitter.com/h0uTdqfnPp— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 11, 2018
Consider: this is a routine play for Ibaka. The man he is defending, Frank Ntilikina, is a young player with potential who assumes he has the step on the older (presumably slower) Ibaka. For Serge though, this is all just a matter of sliding his feet and timing the jump. All things being equal: this is a very good highlight — particularly when one remembers the Raptors went on to casually win this game against the Knicks.
But now comes the fun part. At the end of that clip, the camera cuts to the bench just as play-by-play man Matt Devlin mentions them with a chuckle. And look at that: Jakob Poeltl, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright, and C.J. Miles are all up on their feet flashing Serge’s signature thumbs down gesture. (Well OK, Miles didn’t get the memo and is doing the Mutombo-esque finger wag, but the sentiment is the same.)
Now, there are a lot of things that happen in an NBA season — and, more broadly, in a life — but it will never not be heartwarming to see this kind of interaction happening between teammates. The Raptors are just out there brutalizing the hopeless Knicks, but the whole squad is staying engaged, enjoying themselves together, and having fun. My hope for all of you (and myself, really) is that we can all discover this sense of camaraderie in our own respective work places. It’s a tough challenge — because good lord, our jobs are so often lame — but think on Ibaka and the bench mob, and then: believe.
Being able to have fun with your teammates doesn’t guarantee anything. No title winning teammates had to actually like each other really (see: Kobe/Shaq, Jordan/Almost anyone, LeBron/Love). But it certainly doesn’t hurt if you enjoy each other’s company. So to see Ibaka, the major player Raptor who most often gets lost in the “best season ever” mentions, get this kind of love from his teammates, well, it gets a thumbs up from me.