Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ime Udoka: Part Baller, Part Ninja

From the WTF files...
By: Gabe Muoneke, Hoopshype blogger and teammate of Ime's on the Nigerian National Team


It’s a trip when you get to know people. Ime was so quiet and I figured he was just some guy who could play with a Nigerian father. Well, folks in S.A., don’t be fooled. That dude in an Afr-I-CAN! I mean damn! The only thing non-African about him is his accent. We went to Nigeria, man… When they brought out the food I figured uh oh… He aint eatin’ th… What the?! Ime was tearing that Fu-fu (thank Jay-Z for everyone knowing what that is now) to shreads. I asked him about his adornment of the vittles. He said that’s all he ate growing up. Imagine my surprise when I saw he must have grown up doing the African ju-jitsu too.

When the National Team went to Algeria for the African Championships in Algiers, every team was on edge because the Top 3 squads got the invite to the World Championships. So after we lost to Angola in the semis and had to play Algeria for the third spot, they knew, we knew, everyone knew they had no shot. First quarter… Tactics. African ball, man. Trust me: as corrupt as can be. Despite all the cheating from the three-man (North African) refereeing crew they just couldn’t beat us. So the coach sent in their best player, who was injured but came in with a purpose. I think his name was Ali Bidane or something. We had the ball out of bounce under. He guarded me. As the ref handed us the ball, he turned, looked at me as if there was not a game going on. And pop! Not an elbow, not even a signature yours truly gutter. He decked me right in the jaw. I couldn’t believe it. And come on. I freely admit when I throw cheap shots. I wouldn’t hide it if I started to. I mean, I’m in the middle of basically middle eastern country playing the local team. I know better (read on to see my contradiction). He nailed me, we turned it over, and yes, my Rodman 101 class did well. I looked up court, saw both refs back and calmly asked him in by most polite French, “Pardon me sir, I object to you striking me.” Next thing you know… Both teams on the court going at it. Wow.

Imagine my surprise! (My cheeks hurt). That wasn’t the real brawl. After we won was the real issue. After the game, they were waiting for us to come out of the locker room. And seriously, I didn’t start it. Kingsley Ogwudire was in front of our team in an all-out tirade in his best Arabic. The next thing you know, there were three Algerian players on him. Everyone was engaged in combat save me, if you can believe it. And lo and ehold… Ime! He was taking people out like in Mortal Kombat. Finish him! Incredible. I was so out of it as I had five guys I was fighting (oh yeah, the crowd jumped in as the fight spilled over to the court of the championship game of Senegal and Angola).

In the middle of the whole thing I heard Ime, literally in mid-swing of another opponent say,”Watch back, Gabe” and he calmly, I mean calmly, smeared a guy who, as I turned to see his warning, jumped from the stands with a chair to probably kill me or knock me out to where the crowd would have. I mean, Ime caught the guy in mid air with a fist and calmly continued his dispacthing of oncoming people. He and other guys (yes, me too) were whoopin’ so many people the crowd backed up. True to the letter! But Ime had the most notches by far. As we retreated to the locker room to kind chants of, “You cudly blackies! We highly doubt your ability to leave this gym with lives intact” in French, (it might have been a bad translation) all I could do was marvel at Ime. This guy, I thought, was a quiet American guy was standing there – all his stuff gone (gym bag, wallet, shoes, jersey) – with a stick in his hand we tore off the walls of the locker room in the middle of North Africa quite literally with our lives on the line… laughing. All the while I was texting my wife that I loved her and might have a hard time seeing her again while she was watching the whole incident on BBC News. And Ime… laughing. He is and always will be my 9ja broda. Ime… Wetin happen bros? Abi na notin. Notin dey happen. To this day I don’t know how we got out of there. But that night we ate like kings at the Nigerian Embassy. And Ime was with us… Killing his Fu-fu.

Tell me how I could have seen a thing like that if I had made the NBA out of college! You just can’t make this stuff up.

Link: Gabe Muoneke's blog on Hoopshype

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