Sports stars impact others in countless ways: Young boys want to be them, girls want to date them, and everyone wants to take pleasure in their success.
However, it is rare to find a player who makes a profound impression on multiple generations and motivates others to be better people.
That is exactly what Dikembe Mutombo has done during the last 17 seasons in the NBA. Mutombo’s abilities on the basketball court do not hold a candle to his quality of person.
I was lucky enough to hear Mutombo speak recently—and by lucky I mean truly blessed.
I walked into the building expecting a typical chicken and tea luncheon and left feeling like I had been gifted an unexpected treasure. Mutombo’s roaring laugh and cookie monster voice rang through the crowd of people like a wild fire.
It was amazing to see the glow that he was able to spread to what would have been an ordinary affair.
Mutombo’s sense of humility and ability to find the good in every day has made him more than a basketball player. He is truly an inspiration to anyone who understands why we are all on this earth.
Many people do not know that Mutombo has a degree from Georgetown in linguistics and diplomacy. Or that he speaks nine languages including French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and four African dialects.
His dedication to his education and to the improvement of life in his home country would be enough to call him a role model.
But, “the Son of Congo,” as George Bush referred to him in the 2007 State of the Union Address, is more than just a smart human being with incredible talents.
He is a model for how we should strive to live our lives. The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation has donated millions of dollars to causes around the world. Mutombo has been hailed as a visionary and a humanitarian, and won numerous awards throughout his life.
The Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named for his mother who died in 1997, is the first modern medical facility to be built in the Republic of Congo in nearly 40 years.
In a society that is all about “me,” Mutombo dares to make it all about “us.” He has shared his life with the world and we are all better people because of his willingness to take a stand.
Watching Mutombo honored at the Toyota Center was a moment that I will never forget.
Even in his glory, he still has the ability to make you feel as though you are the one being honored.
He simply said, “I want to thank God for all his blessings.” He then asked his fans to remember that he did his best, “to be his best,” both on and off the court.
As far as I am concerned, this is a simple task.
Sometimes you get lucky, but in Mutombo’s case, we won the jackpot.