From Giannis Antetokounmpo to female coffee farmers, the Basketball Hall of Famer continues to inspire and assist in Africa and beyond.
There was a thunderous beat of the drums as the trumpets enthusiastically blared. Men proudly dressed as lions posed, growled and intimidated. The dancers, in the hundreds, more than got their steps in to the beautiful, native sound. And the 7-foot-2 African flashed his famous smile brightly and swayed to the beat, raising hands that blocked a lot of NBA shots.
The buzzer had long sounded on the Basketball Africa League season opener, but the party was still going strong for Dikembe Mutombo and the fans. “I’m home! I’m home,” Mutombo yelled.
In 2022, the Basketball Hall of Famer is one of the greatest defenders in NBA history, but more important, Mutombo has remained the NBA’s greatest ambassador for Africa and perhaps the world.
“He is truly invaluable,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said of Mutombo. “He has been incredible. He’s been an ambassador, not only a global ambassador for the NBA, but he’s been ambassador for this sport in the continent, on the continent and around the world, right? He’s a global ambassador for us, but his presence here means so much because he is what, when young Africans look up to [an NBA player], they look up to Dikembe because he did it. He did it [at] the highest level.”