"Dikembe Mutombo is not only a friend to his people, but to all people"
- Nelson Mandela
NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo was among 11 new members enshrined in Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts in the early hours of this morning. The native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second African inducted to the Hall of Fame, following two-time NBA Champion Hakeem the Dream Olajuwon of Nigeria who received this honour in 2008.
Mutombo is an eight-time NBA All-Star (1992, 1995-98, 2000-02) and a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001). He led the NBA in blocked shots for five consecutive seasons (1994-98) and blocks per game for a record three consecutive seasons (1994-96). He earned NBA All-Rookie Team recognition in 1992 and All-NBA Second Team in 2001. A native of Zaire, (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Mutombo attended Georgetown University (1988-1991) and played in the NBA from 1991 until 2009 recording 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks in eighteen NBA seasons. He received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009. His legendary finger-wagging motion after blocked shots became one of the most recognized gestures in the game.
Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon made a cameo appearance for Team Africa in NBA Africa Game 2015 in Johannesburg on August 1. Mutombo is well known for his social work around the world and the African continent and attends Basketball without Borders Africa camp every year. He founded Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named after his mother, in Kinshasa in 2007 and the hospital has treated over 140,000 patients since then.
Other members of the 2015 Class inducted this morning include: Dick Bavetta (referee), John Calipari (coach), Spencer Haywood (player), Jo Jo White (player), Lisa Leslie (player), Louis Dampier (player), George Ravelling (contributor), John Isaacs (player), Tom Heinsohn (coach) and Lindsay Gaze (coach, member of FIBA Hall of Fame).
Dikembe Mutombo at the ceremony last night:
“When I was an NBA rookie someone asked me what I thought my career would be like. I never dreamed it would include this. I’m so honoured to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. I only want to be remembered as one of the best defensive players who ever played this game.”
“We were in South Africa recently and the game continues to grow in popularity. The NBA support in the home continent of Africa means a great deal to me and to see the current and former players like Hakeem Olajuwon, and coaches, giving back and making a difference in people’s lives, uplifting us all, I give God the glory for blessing me and surrounding me with so many wonderful people”
“I was only the third African player to play in the NBA. The son of Congo, DRC, to come in the US with nothing, and now I’m part of NBA history.”
“Playing basketball allowed me to become a global citizen. It is because of the game that I was able to build the hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has now served more than 140,000 people. My life mission is to continue to change the living conditions of the people in Africa. I may have not won the championship, but I’m a champion to so many people.”
About Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Located in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where basketball was invented, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame promotes and preserves the game of basketball at every level – professional, collegiate and high school, for both men and women on the global stage.