It could be an expensive postseason for Oklahoma City Thunder rim protector Serge Ibaka, but any money that leaves his wallet will be going to a good place.
The 24-year-old shot-blocking artist will donate $500 to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for every shot he sends away in the playoffs, according to The Oklahoman. The Thunder also celebrated UNICEF night during Friday's 116-94 dismantling of the New Orleans Pelicans to support orphaned children in the Congo, as noted by the NBA's official Twitter account:
Ibaka, a Congo native, said he can relate to the children who are assisted by this organization.
"I lost my mom when I was 7 years old and I had to be separated from my dad for long periods as a child," he said in a press release, via Daily Thunder's Royce Young. "I know how it feels to grow up without your parent’s guidance every day. That’s why when I started working with UNICEF I knew I wanted to focus on orphaned kids."
Ibaka's fundraising efforts are already underway. His game-worn jersey and shoes were both auctioned off at Friday's game:
The collection plate will only get heavier from here.
Anything can happen come playoff time, but the Thunder look prepared to make a prolonged postseason run. OKC ranks No. 2 in both winning percentage (.734) and net rating (plus-7.5 points per 100 possessions, tied with the Los Angeles Clippers).
The way Ibaka sees it, the Thunder will be playing postseason basketball as long as anyone.
"We're going to make the Finals," he said, via B/R's Jared Zwerling. "We want to win a ring."
Sure, that's probably the same intention of every playoff-bound team, but it feels different for the Thunder. They've come awfully close to capturing that hardware before (they lost to the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals) and seem sufficiently stocked to realize that dream.
Between MVP front-runner Kevin Durant (31.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists) and superstar running mate Russell Westbrook (21.8 points, 6.9 assists), the Thunder pack as strong a one-two punch as any team in the league. With Ibaka's continued growth (career-high 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds), OKC's Big Three is forcing its way up the rankings of the NBA's top trios.
The longer OKC has a playoff pulse, the more money Ibaka will put toward this cause.
Every game the Thunder survive could cost Ibaka around $1,500. He's averaged 2.7 blocks per game this season, although, as he showed Friday night, that number can spike at any time:
His block totals have typically soared come playoff time. He's averaged three or better in each of the last three postseasons.
With the money going to a good cause, here's hoping his block numbers climb even higher this time around.
Anyone interested in donating to the cause can do so at www.crowdrise.com/sergeibaka.
Statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.