Dikembe Mutombo Q + A
The retired center fills us in on his post-NBA life
by David Cassilo/ @dcassilo
On the court, Dikembe Mutombo has given us plenty of things to remember. The finger-wagging after blocked shots, the scene of him lying on the ground with the ball in his hands after his Denver Nuggets upset Seattle in the 1994 Playoffs, and let’s not forget his four NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
But for all of the impact Mutombo made on the court during his 18 seasons, he is known around the world more for his work off of it. Mutombo has used his fame to help build hospitals and schools in Africa. He has also started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation where he has helped raise millions of dollars for others.
His most recent venture is Beyond Sport, an organization that uses sport to bring social change throughout the world. While Mutombo took part in the Beyond Sport Summit in Chicago this week, SLAM caught up with him to discuss his work, his career and the health of his former teammate Yao Ming.
SLAM: What exactly is the mission of Beyond Sport?
Dikembe Mutombo: We are all trying to reach the goal of going beyond sport. Sport is contributing a lot by bringing people from different backgrounds and races together. From Palestine to Israel to Rwanda. You have seen how sport was able to bring us all together through the Olympics.
SLAM: Who else in sports is helping with this initiative?
DM: We are doing a lot of work with a lot of sports organizations like the NBA, NHL and FIFA.
SLAM: And what is taking place at the Summit this week?
DM: We have conferences and panels to discuss what kind of contributions are made from sport. I used basketball to go out and make an impact in our society. I created something that has never been done before because of sport.
SLAM: Speaking of your own contributions, how is your foundation doing?
DM: Our foundation is surviving. Despite the recession and struggles, people continue to contribute. The world is one today. We are not living in separate continents. Internet has brought us together and we have found a common ground.
SLAM: Your career, unfortunately, ended because of a knee injury. How has the recovery from that been?
DM: I’m feeling very good now. My knee is feeling a lot better. I’m continuing to exercise to keep myself active.
SLAM: Besides being involved in so many causes, what else have you done since retiring?
DM: I’m just enjoying my life and my family.
SLAM: A close friend of yours, Yao Ming, is recovering from an injury of his own. Have you spoken with him recently, and if so, how is he feeling?
DM: I was down in Houston last week to see him and his family. He is looking forward to a healthy year. He’s not feeling the same pain. We’re all very happy.
SLAM: What do you think of the plan to limit his minutes?
DM: I think we all just have to keep our fingers crossed.
SLAM: Are there any players today that remind you of yourself, especially on the defensive end?
DM: Of course Dwight Howard compares because of the way he plays and blocks shots. He also helps others a lot. We are not just playing the game to play. We are helping others.
SLAM: Helping others is obviously something you take pride in. Does that stand out more than anything you accomplished on the court?
DM: I think it’s both. I had a wonderful career. I really had no regrets. I was given the opportunity and the chance to be where I am today with making an impact. Building a school in South Africa and my work in the Congo. I love sport. Sport gave me the chance to make a huge impact on our society. I thank sports for making me become what I am.