Winning is said to mean something when All-Stars are selected in the NBA.
So how do you explain the best team in the best conference landing just one player in next week's gala?
That's the question many Thunder fans are left asking now that Kevin Durant will be Oklahoma City's lone representative on the Western Conference All-Star roster in New Orleans.
This year will mark the first time since 2011 that the best team at the break in a conference wasn't rewarded with multiple All-Star selections. That year, both Denver (Carmelo Anthony) and Orlando (Dwight Howard) had only one player named to the team.
Knee surgeries prevented Russell Westbrook from extending his All-Star streak to four. But a case could be made that he should have been included and replaced if he was unable to compete. Despite missing 27 games while recovering, Westbrook was playing arguably the best ball of his career when healthy. He also helped the Thunder to a 21-4 record when in the lineup.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul was selected despite appearing in only nine more games than Westbrook. And the Clippers were 22-12 with Paul in the lineup.
A similar case could be made for Serge Ibaka, who is quietly having a career year.
Ibaka has appeared in 52 of the Thunder's 53 games and is averaging career highs in points (15.3), rebounds (8.7) and assists (0.9). He's on pace to become only the 10th player in the past 10 seasons to average at least 15 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots.
Of the 16 times that the nine previous players posted those averages, only five times did the player not make the All-Star team in that season.
But Ibaka wasn't selected by the fans as a starter. He wasn't selected by the coaches as a reserve. He wasn't selected by the league office as a replacement.
“It always gives you motivation,” Ibaka said of not being selected. “It's hard. We're in a league where there's a lot of good players. It happens, you know. … No matter what happened, All-Star or no, I will keep working hard the same way. I will keep trying to help my team the same way.”
More and more, Ibaka is making a strong case that he was snubbed.
Over the past 14 games, Ibaka is averaging 18.8 points, shooting 62.4 percent with 8.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. The Thunder is 12-2 over that span.
When the All-Star starters were announced on Jan. 23, Ibaka scored 21 points with seven rebounds a night later at Boston.
When the All-Star reserves were announced on Jan. 30, Ibaka crafted a 25-point, nine-rebound effort on a 12-for-12 shooting performance the next night at Brooklyn.
And when New Orleans forward Anthony Davis was selected by the league to serve as injured Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's replacement on Friday, Ibaka went out that night and scored 26 points on 10-for-13 shooting at Orlando.
“The most important (thing) for me is when I see my team win,” said Ibaka. “The All-Star, those kind of (things) are good. If they call your name it's good because you put in a lot of work. But when my team is still winning, that's the most important because I don't think nobody will like to be an All-Star and play on a losing team. So my happiness right now is because we are winning. It's making me dream big. Every time we win it's making me dream big.”
Ibaka's statistics trail the competition, but the Thunder has won 18 more games than Davis' Pelicans, 16 more games than Kevin Love's Timberwolves and 10 more games than Dirk Nowitzki's Mavericks.
Each of them will represent their teams in New Orleans.
For now, Ibaka is happy just to hear his name in the conversation.
“I'm proud because when I first got into the league nobody knew me,” Ibaka said. “People just mentioned my name like a big guy who runs the floor and blocks shots. That's it. And right now, it's just amazing, man. People are saying my name (like) an almost All-Star. I've come a long way.”