In honor of Black History Month, we’re recognizing the economic, cultural, political, and social contributions of influential black immigrants and refugees who’ve helped shape the vibrant tapestry of America. Today we focus on NBA Hall of Famer, and humanitarian Dikembe Mutombo:
2015 NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo may be known most for his intimidating, finger-wagging, shot-blocking presence on the court. But his work to help others off it established his reputation as a celebrated humanitarian in his retirement.
The towering, 7-foot-2 Center first arrived in the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo on a USAID academic scholarship to study medicine at Georgetown University in 1987. Mutombo lists his home country’s high infant mortality rate as his inspiration to become a doctor. But his plans soon changed after he was recruited by legendary coach John Thompson to play basketball. The move led to a distinguished, 19-year professional career that included eight all-star appearances, and four NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards before finishing second all-time in blocks at the time of this retirement.
Mutombo gained his U.S. citizenship in 2006, three-years before his retirement from the NBA. Since stepping off the court, Mutombo has worked extensively on behalf of the Special Olympics, served as a UNICEF ambassador, worked towards the eradication of global Polio with the CARE campaign, and launched his own charity to improve health care in central Africa. In 2007, his Dikembe Mutombo Foundation opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital near his hometown of Kinshasa.