The NBA has recently made a strong push to grow the game globally, with expansions of their international programs into places like India and Africa. The annual NBA Africa game is coming up soon as current and former players have made it to Johannesburg, South Africa ahead of this year’s exhibition.
The lead ambassador for the NBA to Africa is Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, who was originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mutombo has long been known for his humanitarian efforts, and his post-playing career work with the NBA only furthers his legacy in that area.
Mutombo doesn’t just make trips and attend camps and games, he’s gotten very involved in the lives of some of those he’s met. The most notable example of that came last year when he adopted one of the kids at the camp who, at 7’7, reminded him of himself and brought him to the United States in order to get better training, nutrition, and education.
Mutombo explained to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears why he did that and offered an update on how his adopted son is doing and what’s next for his future.
Myself, I adopted one of the kids last year. He is from Congo and he is 7-7. He is 17 years old. He was in the  camp and he was doing so well, but not doing as well as he should be. I looked at myself and said, ‘I used to be like that.’ I wanted to give this kid a chance because so many people gave me a chance, too. So, I put him on a plane and I took him to the U.S. We put him in a school, we’re feeding him. We’re giving him everything and he is going to a private school in Maryland. I am so proud of him. Hopefully, next year he will go to Georgetown.
He reminds me of when I was young. I was real, real shy. When I used to go to the market in the Congo, people would be running away. They were calling me a ‘ghost.’ I was bullied a lot when I was young in school and in the streets. And now when I go back they cheer for me like I was president. These are the same people who used to boo me.
There are very few people in the world that can understand what it’s like to be a that tall of a young man and that unique, but Mutombo is among them. To hear that Mutombo, one of the most gregarious figures in basketball, was once an extremely shy young man is surprising knowing his personality now.
Mutombo hopes that he can help build his adopted son’s confidence so he can take full advantage of his size to dominate on the basketball court the way Dikembe once did.