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NBA Legend Dikembe Mutombo was born in the capital city of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mutombo is the seventh of ten children born to Samuel and Biamba Marie Mutombo. He arrived in the United States in 1987 on an academic scholarship to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. In his second year, Coach John Thompson invited the 7'2" Mutombo to try out for the university's renowned basketball team. After joining the team, Mutombo re-directed his pre-med ambitions and graduated from Georgetown with dual degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy. Mutombo is fluent in nine languages, including five African languages. He played professional basketball for 18 years before retiring from the Houston Rockets in 2009.
Giving back has always been a trademark of Mutombo ever since he entered the NBA in 1991. As a former spokesman for CARE, the international relief agency, Mutombo visited the Somali refugee camps in Northern Kenya in 1993 and traveled with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Georgetown colleagues Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
In 1996, Mutombo sponsored the Congo’s women’s national basketball team’s trip to Atlanta for the Summer Olympics games and also picked up the tab for the Congo's track team’s uniforms and expenses. He is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and he also served on the Advisory Board for the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. Mutombo presently serves on the boards of the National Constitution Center, Special Olympics International, the CDC Foundation and on the National Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Mutombo has been named ABC’s Person of the Week, Essence Magazine’s 2001 Achiever, and Sporting News’ No. 1 Good Guy. He has been featured in Europe’s TIME magazine, Sports Illustrated for Kids, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Houston Chronicle and Forbes magazine.
In 2009, NBA Commissioner David Stern appointed Mutombo to the newly created position of NBA Global Ambassador where he works to grow and celebrate the game of basketball through international events while working with NBA Cares to bring attention to important social issues. In 2015, Mutombo traveled to Cuba where he was joined with other NBA players and coaches to conduct a training camp in the city of Havana. The NBA is the first U.S. professional league to visit Cuba since the easing of strained relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Honors and awards:
- 2016 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award -NCAA
- 2016 Professional Honoree - Boys Scouts of America/Atlanta Chapter
- 2015 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- 2015 Caring Award - The Caring Institute
- 2014 Global Leadership Award – Upwardly Global
- 2014 Global Leadership Award – French-American Chamber of Commerce
- 2014 Chairman’s Award – 100 Black Men of America
- 2013 Congressional Humanitarian Award - Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
- 2013 Gateway Award for Excellence in Humanitarian Service – Washington Adventist University
- 2013 Legacy Award – Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
- 2011 Goodermote Humanitarian Award – Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- 2011 Public Service Award – Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City
- 2010 Laureus World Sports Award
- 2010 B.C. Forbes Peopling of America Award for Sports – Ellis Island Foundation
- 2010 Miracle Corners of the World Award
- January 2010, President Barack Obama served as a surprise guest at the eighth annual "Let Freedom Ring!" event celebrating of the life and legacy of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and honoring NBA great and philanthropist Dikembe Mutombo who received the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream award
- 2010 Humanitarian in Sport Award during the Beyond Sport Summit, which was attended by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
- 2010 Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- 2007 - Mutombo was recognized by President George W. Bush during his State of the Union address
- 2000 - The President's Service Award awarded by President Bill Clinton
- World Economic Forum - Young Global Leader
- Wilt Chamberlain Award - Operation Smile
- Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters – SUNY/Cortland
- Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters – Georgetown University
- Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters – Haverford College
- NAACP Phoenix Award
- The Henry Iba Citizen Athlete Award
- J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award - NBA
- Ernie Davis Humanitarian Award
- The Samuel J. Halsey Award - Georgetown University
- Constituency for Africa's Trailblazer Award.
Mutombo is the Chairman and President of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation which he created in 1997. Located in Atlanta, Georgia the Foundation’s mission is to improve the health, education and quality of life for the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One major project was the construction of a new general hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa, DR Congo.
In December 2007 and at a cost of $29 million, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital opened in the DR Congo. Named in memory of Mutombo’s beloved mother, the hospital has treated over 160,000 men, women and children.
Dikembe Mutombo and his wife Rose live in Atlanta, Georgia with their 3 children.