Former NBA star DikembeMutombo spared a few hours of his time in April to answer fans’ questions during a recent fan appreciation day on the NBA Africa Facebook, discussing a wide range of issues, including his humanitarian work, family, African players, the modern NBA, his 18-year basketball career, and other topics.
The Kinshasa native, who will be enshrined to the Hall of Fame in September, was an eight-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Although the 48-year-old retired from the game in 2009, the Congolese who currently serves as NBA Global Ambassador, remains highly committed to the growth of the basketball game worldwide.
In April, Mutombo, along with former MVP Steve Nash and former WNBA player TichaPenicheiro, travelled to Havana, Cuba, where the NBA hosted an inaugural four-day Basketball Without Borders camp, teaching the more than 100 athletes in attendance.
Mutombo is one of the promoters of the first NBA Game in Africa, which will take place in Johannesburg on 1 August.
SuperSport.com selected excerpts of Mutombo’s fan appreciation day.
Q. Dikembe, you have been an amazing ambassador of good will…can you tell me your 3 favourite accomplishments AFTER retiring from the NBA….
DM: Woah. I think the work that we are doing right now with US Military has become one of the great passions for me. Sitting with the young men and women in uniform and defend this beautiful nation. I am so happy everytime I see them because they are defending our freedom and liberty.
Q. How can professional athletic organisations and athletes be most impactful in humanitarian and community work?
DM: They should be a mentor. They should share the love and blessing that we have in playing this game and being able to touch as many people as we can. It’s one of the greater gifts playing in the NBA. Just committing yourself to community service is important. That is my challenge to anybody who has a chance to wear the NBA uniform. When you can go and touch somebody else’s life. There are so many people who contribute for you to wear the NBA uniform. There are so many people involved for you to be successful.
Q. What makes a great Basketballer? In terms of mental v physical v diet. What do you have to do to be great?
DM: There are two things you have to do. Mentally you have to be strong and physically you have to be committed. If you cannot handle those things your chances for failure are much higher. These days, many guys are forgetting the mental challenge. If you are not mentally strong you start feeling down.
Q. Which current NBA player do you see the most of yourself in?
DM. Jordan on the Clippers. I like what he is doing, he is a great kid, blocking so many shots and challenging whatever comes his way. Another great player I have seen is Noah with Chicago Bulls is a great defender. The from Utah (Gobert) has been great defensively for the Jazz.
Q. What did it feel like, when you stepped on the NBA court for the first time?
DM: I was like woah, I made it. I think it was one of the happiest moments of my life. It was a dream come true. I really did thank God a lot for letting me wear the uniform.
Q. Which 4 active NBA players would you put around yourself to make a title run?
DM: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone. I think Malone is one of the best power forwards to ever play the game of basketball.
Q. Who was the hardest player to defend in your era which made it difficult for you to block their shot?
DM: Hakeem Olajuwon.
Q. According to u who is de best basketball player in history?
DM: Michael Jordan, the way he approached the game. And Bill Russell, not many people who played this game for a short period of 13 years and win 11 championships? Bill Russell was one of my mentors. I was able to talk to him when I was coming up from college. He taught me what it’s like to be the best.
Q. Growing up who was your role model?
DM: My mom and dad were the most influential people in my life. My mom was a great woman and my dad was a great man. They influenced me a lot, looking at life in a different way. Being a man in society, being a man of god, being able to touch so many lives. How can you bless people in your life because you have been blessed. Continue to say that you can do more regardless of how much money you have in your pocket.
Q. Why is it so hard for African players?
DM: A lot of them come to clinics or camps. More than 400 000 students who are playing the game as students in America. They don’t know that you got to go through the process to continue to improve yourself before you make it to the NBA. You got to make sure your education is secure. If you blow your knee out you need that education. Visiting the continent so many times, kids say they want to make the NBA I tell them you have to work hard and go to school. Continue to improve yourself as you go to school. If you do that, we have a great chance to build a great continent. Olajuwon went to school, I went to school and many more went to school so there has to be some message there. Don’t forget about your eduction.
Q. What inspires you today?
DM: Raising my children, seeing them grow up. Being able to pass what was given to me as a gift and to pass it to them so they can carry on this great legacy. Great chance to listen and then follow.