Despite word that Bismack Biyombo is on his way to Orlando to play for the Magic, the single season the charismatic Congolese centre spent with the Toronto Raptors appears to be one he’ll never forget.
Biyombo took to Instagram on Wednesday to thank the Raptors organization and the city of Toronto with a photo of the CN Tower superimposed on a silhouette of himself in what became his signature Usain Bolt-esque celebration pose.
“Because every minute, every second counts for me and I just want to thank the Raptors organization and most importantly my teammates and coaches, I wouldn’t be in this situation without your efforts and caring on and off the court,” Biyombo’s caption on the post reads.
“To all the fans, thank you for an amazing time in the 6ix. You welcomed me like one of yours! You helped me get comfortable and enjoy this season.”
As a result of his big blocks and dunks, all-energy style, flair for the dramatic and beaming smile, Biyombo quickly became a favourite among the Raptors faithful.
Last season, Biyombo put up a stat line of 5.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 22 minutes per game. He was also the only Raptors player get into all 82 regular-season contests.
The post-season is really when Biyombo made a name for himself, however. In 20 playoff games he averaged 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 25.3 minutes per. He also turned in a monstrous 26-rebound, four-block performance against the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The deal the soon-to-be 24-year-old signed with Orlando is worth a reported $72 million over four seasons, a contract worlds apart from the two-year $5.7 million deal Raptors GM Masai Ujiri inked him to last season.
Biyombo was able to become a free agent this summer as his deal with the Raptors included a second year player opt-out. After far outperforming that Toronto deal, Biyombo earned free-agent offers that essentially out-priced the Raptors, whose first priority was re-signing all-star DeMar DeRozan.
Biyombo also addressed the fact that some fans may be hurt by his decision in the Instagram post.
“I also don’t expect everyone to understand my decision,” Biyombo wrote. “I won’t forget this season and Toronto will always be in my heart. I appreciate and love you guys! I have nothing but respect and best wishes to the organization and the fans!”
The Raptors drafted big men Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam in this June’s draft as potential Biyombo replacements.