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Dikembe Mutombo, the ambassador of African basketball

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Ten years after hanging up the sneakers, the legacy of Congolese legend Dikembe Mutombo still remains intact. At 53, his impact and influence in African basketball in the NBA and on his native continent remains unique.

His famous ” not in my house “, his celebration where he wiggled his finger to say no to his opponents to whom he had just blocked the shot, may well be an integral part of basketball culture – and be the “trademark” of Dikembe Mutombo wherever he goes, but limiting the influence of the native of Kinshasa to this simple gesture would be a real faux pas.

NBA’s first African legend

For eighteen seasons, in the four corners of the United States and rubbing shoulders with Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and other Magic Johnson, Mutombo was one of the first African players to impact the game of the best league in the world, a time when the NBA opened its borders very little to basketball players from the continent.

At the time, it was an almost impossible dream, something you never thought you could achieve. But with my brothers Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) and Manute Bol (Sudan)we managed to pave the way for Africa “, recalls the former student of Georgetown University, who saw himself, on his arrival in the United States, becoming a doctor or a diplomat, before discovering a real passion for basketball.

On the floors, the pivot made the difference with his sprawling arms and his warrior defense. Throughout an immense career crowned by several All Star Game selections (eight times) and titles of best defender of the season (four times, NBA record), the interior has left its mark on almost two decades of basketball. . He who had to stop his career one evening of a playoff game with the Houston Rockets, in April 2009, due to rupture of the cruciate ligaments, at 43 years old! ” I will never forget that moment, but I also knew that my life in basketball would go on, with my continent at the top of all my initiatives.. »

Essential advisor and second father

Today, he lives in a philosophy that has always pursued him: ” Give and give back to Africa, help the youth of my continent, whatever the circumstances. That’s what keeps me going and living with such passion. After being named NBA Ambassador to Africa in 2011, Dikembe Mutombo has not lost any of his influence since the end of his career, to the delight of his successors who are making the heyday of North American franchises and which make Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Senegal shine on the courts of North America.

From Joël Embiid, to Pascal Siakam, via his compatriots Bismack Biyombo and Emmanuel Mudiay, the African legend is an essential advisor, a kind of second father always present. ” They know that I am there for them, that they can count on me all the time. I lived what they live long before them “, he specifies. Before confessing be proud of what they do “.

They follow my advice, namely to be exemplary, diligent, work hard and never give up, keep on goingDikembe Mutombo. It sounds simple, but the life of an NBA player is very difficult, especially for young people today who are even more exposed, with the media and social networks. A guy like Joël Embiid is scrutinized from all angles every night, and he is always expected to be the messiah. I am also here to help him manage this, so that he continues to move forward and inspire African youth. »

The future of the NBA is Africa »

Not a week goes by for Mutombo without him traveling across the North American continent to closely follow the performances of basketball players from across the Atlantic. He gladly picks up his phone to chat with those who dream of becoming the new Pascal Siakam or Serge Ibaka.

A privileged witness to the explosion of basketball in Africa, and aware of its enormous potential, Dikembe Mutombo is also fully invested in another project that could revolutionize his sport on the continent: the launch of the Basketball Africa League (BAL). . On this project largely funded by the NBA, the Congolese is involved at several levels, both on the sporting side and in terms of the development of the first transcontinental professional basketball league.

The future of the NBA is Africa “, he says. ” The continent is full of treasures, of talents who only ask to be helped and trained to be able to realize their dreams. I want to help them, and with the NBA, give them the tools and the means to reach them. It’s more than a commitment for me, it goes beyond basketball. African youth, I want to give them everything, to help my magnificent continent as much as possible. It’s kind of my raison d’etre. »


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