Gentle giant with a big heart…

A gentle giant with a heart of gold is how best to
describe Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba
Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, one of the African
continents greatest exports to
the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Simply known as Dikembe Mutombo all over

the world, this legend now retired is back

in South Africa to do what he does best when

he is not playing basketball - giving back

to the community - and through

the annual Basketball Without Borders programme

which is currently being held at the American

International School of Johanneburg,

where Mutombo and eleven of his colleagues

from the NBA and WNBA are in the country

to conduct coaching clinics and share

their life's experiences with 60 basketball players

from 23 countries in the African continent.

These young African players from different

walks of life will for two more days get

an experience of a life time by rubbing shoulders

with some of the great names that

have played the game of basketball and interacting with them.

"For past 16 years that I have been involved

with this programme I have seen many changes.

But I still want young African players to have

the same access to the game (basketball)

that I had so that there can be more Dikembes

coming from this continent.

"They must also remember who they are

and where they come from," said

the 43-year-old Mutombo.

Mutombo also believes that the African players

are getting the recognition they deserve

in the NBA as they have made impact an the league.

"Of course African players have been making

an impact in the NBA, Hakeem Olajuwon

who was a champion with the Houston Rockets

and he has been in the top five for the most

rebounds and blocks in the NBA and so have I,

" said the former Denver Nuggets player,

who rates Olajuwon as one of the

toughest players he has ever played against.

"I have also played in the two NBA finals and

DJ Mbenga was a champion with

the Los Angeles Lakers last season."

Standing at 7ft2 (2.18m tall), Mutombo

is a very hard man to miss and he makes

an impact where ever he goes and it was

no suprise when he was quickly horded

by the pupils of the American school,

who were amazed at the Democratic

Republic of Congo born player's height and

his custom made size 22 sneaks aptly-called

Mutombo 55, the number he wore

through out his playing career.

Mutombo duly obliged the attention he received

from the pupils, who asked everything from

his shoe size, height and to those who

did not know him, his name. 

"I am Mutombo" he responds with a loud roar

to his newly acquired young fans.

"They love me in Africa that's why I am

always happy to be here," said Mutombo

who was a first round fourth pick in

the 1991 NBA draft.

Despite retiring from an illustrious basketball

career which has spanned 17 years, which

has seen him play in two NBA finals,

participate in eight NBA All Star games and

break numerous records during his career.

Now Mutombo's focus is getting his

knee better after battling with injury in his

last season in the NBA, and focus on

the his hospital which he built and named

after his late mother "Biamba Marie

Mutombo Hospital" and to also expand

his business interests in Africa.

"I want to get my knee better so can be able

to walk without pain, I also want to look

into other business ventures like oil

and mining - Africa is very rich in resources,"

said Mutombo.

"I also want to focus running my hospital."

Mutombo also wants to continue with

his charity work as it is part of the man's nature.

"I never stop giving to charity" said the man mountain.

On summing up his basketball career Mutombo

feels he has given his all in the sport and the sport

has given back to him and he is

happy with his contribution to basketball.

"I am happy I have no regrets, I have played

against some of the best players the sport

has ever produced and I have also

broken many records, so I am satisfied,"

concluded Mutombo.

Article and pictures by Manyehlisa Lehohla,

edited by Victor Shakineza

Link here

             J-L K.
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