Ever since his 1991 debut on NBA hardwood, Dikembe Mutombo has attracted attention and adoration from basketball fans around the world. Standing at 7’2” and bearing a personality to match, Mutombo played professionally for nearly 20 years, captivating fans with his on-court defense.
Before he was selected fourth in the NBA Draft, the young athlete from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was recruited to attend and play for Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where the foundations were laid for Mutombo to develop as a sportsman and as an academic. Nearly 30 years later, his legacy is entering a new and unique phase as his son Ryan joins his alma mater, looking to further cement the Mutombo name in the halls of the Hoyas.
The eight-time NBA All-Star came to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1987 and headed straight to Georgetown, all of which was made possible by a USAID Scholarship. Although he was recruited to play basketball, Mutombo was eager to learn, studying ESL, linguistics, and diplomacy, skills he found more than useful in his post-basketball career.
For the Hoyas on the hardcourt, he was the heir apparent to Georgetown legend (and current coach) Patrick Ewing, another imposing center who led the team to success. For three seasons, he stood out as a defensive powerhouse on the court, and he also drew notice for his extracurricular endeavors, including interning with the U.S. Congress. Through his studies, the tutelage of the late coach John Thompson, and his own ambition, he received his bachelor’s degree shortly before making the leap to the pros. Later in 2010, Georgetown awarded the distinguished alum with an honorary doctorate.
However successful he was as an athlete, he has become even more lauded for his humanitarian work dedicated to improving the living conditions and public health of his home country. In 2007, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital was opened in the capital, Kinshasa; the $29 million dollar hospital was the first modern healthcare facility opened in nearly 40 years and was largely funded by Mutombo himself.
Most recently, the facility joined with his charitable foundation to assist with the country’s response to COVID-19, including producing masks and feeding frontline workers. He holds two NBA citizenship awards as well as the Goodermote Humanitarian Award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health, and is a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. Without a doubt, the man called Mt. Mutombo doesn’t consider even the sky to be a limit, but from his place at the top his hand is always ready to bring others up to his level.