A young man who loved soccer came to America on an academic scholarship to become a doctor. By the time he left Georgetown in 1991, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo was not a doctor. Mutombo was not a soccer player either. The 7-2 big man from the Congo had become one the most dominant defensive players in college basketball and a first round pick in the NBA Draft. The game he had adapted to so well would help him achieve his dream of serving his country.
Mutombo continued his dominance of the paint in the NBA. He was named an All-Star during his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets and would earn the honor seven more times over the course of his 18 year career. Mt. Mutombo also won four NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards, a record amount also held by Ben Wallace. Mutombo's career blocked shot total remains second only to Hakeem Olajuwon. As impressive as he was as a defender in the NBA, Mutombo has been an even bigger defender of humanity, especially in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While he never became a medical doctor, his humanitarian work has landed him numerous awards and honorary doctorate degrees from SUNY-Cortland, Georgetown and Haverford College. Mutombo used his NBA wealth to build the first modern hospital in the Congo in 40 years. He named it the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center, after his late mother. Construction began in 2001 and the state of the art hospital opened in 2007.
Mutombo created the the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation (DMF) in 1997 in Atlanta when he was a member of the Atlanta Hawks. The mission of the DMF is to "improve the health, education and quality of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo." Before the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital opened, the DMF sent hospital beds, medicine and ambulances to Congo.
Even before he started the DMF, Mutombo gave his time to humanitarian causes as a spokesman of CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty. Mutombo also paid for his country's women's basketball team to travel to participate in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Mutombo has also participated in the NBA/FIBA outreach program Basketball Without Borders which promotes the game of basketball while working towards "positive social change in the areas of education, health and wellness."
Mutombo was an obvious choice for us as a former Big East player who has been a great ambassador on and off the court and an embodiment of what the Buick Human Highlight Reel campaign is about.