The City: Kinshasa
Located along the southern banks of the Congo River, Kinshasa was once a site of fishing villages. It was founded as a trading post in 1881, and named Léopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium. While decades of internal conflicts and external armed struggles have taken their toll on the city once touted as Kin la Belle (Beautiful Kinshasa), restoration efforts are currently ongoing to bring back the glory.
Referred to as Kinois, the inhabitants of Kinshasa are reputed for their sense of humor, their love of dancing, and their music. Two of the most famous exponents of Congolese music, Papa Wemba and Koffi Olomide were based in the city.
The Icon: Dikembe Mutombo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutomb
“There is a proverb in Africa: When you take the elevator to go up, you always must remember to send it back down. This is my way of sending it back down.” – Dikembe Mutombo
Described as one of the best shot blockers and defensive players of all time, Dikembe Mutombo barely spoke English when he came to Georgetown University, Washington DC on a USAID Scholarship in the ‘80s. While he was intent on becoming a doctor, he was recruited by the basketball coach of the school team to play the game, and he went on to become an excellent center.
Mutombo had an immediate impact upon his NBA draft in 1991, and was selected for the All-Star Team even as a rookie. By the 1994/95 season, he bagged the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. An award he would win three other times. Nicknamed Mount Mutombo because of his giant frame and defensive exploits on the courts, Dikembe played for several teams in the NBA and won numerous awards during his illustrious playing career.
A spokesman for the international relief agency CARE, Mutombo is the first youth emissary of the UNDP. In 1997, he initiated the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation which is “dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” Plans to open a US$29 million, 300-bed hospital on the outskirts of Kinshasa began the same year. Construction however, did not start until 2004. By 2006, Mutombo had donated US$15 million of his own earnings to the project.
Named after his mother who died of a stroke in 1997, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital became the first modern medical facility built in over 40 years in the country. It is located on a 12-acre site in Masina, on the outskirts of Kinshasa. Dikembe Mutombo is happily married to Rosario Mutombo since 1996, and they have two children.
For information about the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, please visit: http://www.dmf.org/
Did You Know?
- Kinshasa is the 3rd largest urban area in Africa, after Cairo and Lagos.
- Dikembe Mutombo was born on June 25, 1966 in Kinshasa where he attended the local Salvation Army school from 6th to 11th grade…
- He stands at 7’2” (2.18m) and wears a size 22 basketball shoes (the same as Shaquille O’Neal), the largest in the NBA.
- After college basketball, he was selected as 4th pick overall in the 1st round of the 1991 NBA Draft by Denver Nuggets.
- Mutombo has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award a record 4 times, a feat later matched by Ben Wallace when he won his 4th in 2006/06 season.
- In 2005, he was ranked as the most generous athlete in the world, on a list that included Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, etc. according to com
- While studying at Georgetown, Dikembe served as a summer intern once with the United States Congress, and the World Bank.
- In 1999, Mutombo received the 7th annual Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award, an award given to athletes who excel and help others. He was appointed the First Youth Emissary of the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) the same year.
- Even though he “almost spoke no English” when he arrived the US, Dikembe presently speaks English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese in addition to 5 African dialects.
- Starting with the Denver Nuggets, Mutombo played for 6 different teams in the NBA, namely: Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, during his illustrious career which spanned 18 years, lasting from 1991 to 2009.
- On January 27, 2007 Mutombo became NBA league all-time 2nd most prolific shot blocker in history, overtaking NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Only Nigerian star Hakeem ‘the Dream’ Olajuwon is ahead of him.
- Also in March 2007, while playing for Houston Rockets (his last team before retiring) against Denver Nuggets (the first team he played for in the NBA), Mutombo recorded 22 rebounds in a game to become the oldest man to get more than 20 in a game.
- He has been an 8-time NBA All-Star, 6-time NBA All-Defensive, and 3-time All-NBA.
Afro Tourism salutes another true African hero, and says “Well done!” to a city icon and living legend, Dikembe Mutombo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo!
Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism, capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.
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