NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo remains deeply involved in the league despite retiring in 2009. After a stellar career that saw him win four Defensive Player of the Year plums, he has been a staunch advocate of the NBA in his home country of Africa.
During his prime, Mutombo, who grew up in Congo, was one of the best big men in the NBA and one of the league’s most recognizable foreign stars. It was also during this time when the late NBA commissioner David Stern exerted extra efforts to make the league become a more global product. So when Mutombo retired, Stern named him as the NBA’s first ever global ambassador.
The eight-time All-Star reminisced about it in a magnificent story by The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, while also expressing his thoughts on the current NBA leadership.
“I believed Stern back then because he had the capacity and the knowledge to make things happen. He was a very smart man who wanted to rule the continent. I’m so happy that our commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum (are) following (in Stern’s) footsteps very well. They are committed to the promise David made to see the continent shine.”
Today, Mutombo wholeheartedly embraces his role as the prime ambassador of NBA Africa and the sport of basketball in general.
“I came to the point to understand that I’m not living in this world by myself. I live in a world surrounded by people of different cultures, different languages, people who come from different places, and different islands. I don’t go and look for who’s Congolese, who’s African. I just look for people that are there. And I come to this point to say, what kind of investment are we making to ensure that the future generation have all the tools necessary that will carry them onto the next chapter of their life?”
With the vision of Stern, who passed away in 2020, and the passion of Mutombo and other NBA global ambassadors, the league has truly established itself globally. More than basketball, the NBA has aided in improving the quality of life in many countries through charity works, civic programs, and social initiatives.