I almost pulled an Arto and neglected to write today’s post because I was so caught up in the delightfully quirky (and simple) web-based video game Dikembe Mutombo’s 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World (presented by Old Spice) when I suddenly remembered the full name of one of my favorite basketball players growing up:
Dikembe Mutombo Mplonodo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo
The 7’2″ center’s wingspan was even longer than his name, and he used his long arms to block more shots than anyone in history except for fellow African big man Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. He had an impressive career that spanned 18 seasons, and he was the league’s oldest player upon his retirement in 2009. He is currently ranked #63 among all-time NBA greats, according to the user-generated real-time Elo ranking system.
But as much as Dikembe was a giant on the court and as much as his name is responsible for lengthening DMV lines throughout the U.S., Dikembe Mutombo’s greatest contributions are likely his humanitarian work.
Originally brought to Georgetown University on a USAID scholarship, Mutombo was persuaded to play basketball by the legendary John Thompson. Mutombo originally wanted to be a doctor, and during his time at Georgetown, he served as a summer Congressional intern and graduated with dual degrees in linguistics and diplomacy. His linguistics degree makes sense, given the NINE languages he is known to speak – including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and five African languages.
After winning the second of his record four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, Mutombo formed the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, and has done pretty much everything: fighting polio, building a $29 million hospital that he named after his mother, helping visually impaired children in Washington, D.C, being a spokesperson for the Special Olympics and the first youth emissary for the UN’s Development program, and being mentioned by the President during the 2007 State of the Union address.
Barack Obama may claim to be the first “skinny kid with a funny name” to deliver a SOTU address, but Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo was probably the first to be honored during such an address.
Yet despite all these tremendous accomplishments, Dikembe may best be remembered for two things: