Dikembe Mutumbo

Interview from April 8, 2011

Etan Thomas: Tell me about how you grew up? You do so much work in your community and so much work in the Congo where you are from. Who instilled that sense of not forgetting where you came from?

Dikembe Mutumbo: That is a family tradition. Something that my parents started drilling into my head at a very young age. They told me that if you make it in society, you have to find a way to reach out to others who didn't get a chance to be in your position. They told me that you have to see what a difference you can make in their lives by the many blessings that have been bestowed upon you. So that is the tradition I have tried to continue.

Etan Thomas: Tell me about what your father in particular taught you growing up that was beneficial to you throughout your entire life

Dikembe Mutumbo: My father was a teacher. He didn't make a lot of money as a teacher but always stressed the importance of education. I had ten brothers and sisters so we didn't always have money, but one thing we had was education. My father would tell me that education can open any door for you in the world. That nobody could hold you down as long as you had an education.

Etan Thomas: Now did knowing your history and culture have a tremendous effect on your entire life?

Dikembe Mutumbo: Of course it did. I try to pass the torch to my children and teach them about their history because it is something they need to know. Its like the saying, how can you know where you are going if you do not know where you have been. I tell them the story of how their grandfather left the Congo in 1968 when the Congo was going through a war and traveled to Europe to study and learn and how he used education as a tool to better himself. I tell them of what a proud people we are. About our rich history and struggles and wars and what we have been able to accomplish as people from the Congo. I want them to know and have pride in who they are the same way I have in who I am

Etan Thomas: How many kids do you have?

Dikembe Mutumbo: Four adopted and three of my own

Etan Thomas: Now one of the aspects I am examining is how important it is for children to have a father in their house to teach them their history and culture and discipline the way you are doing with yours. So what happens to the young man when they are missing that element?

Dikembe Mutumbo: You know, that is one of the biggest problems in our society and our community. Too many young people have no father in their home to guide them and show them discipline and how to be a good person and do all of the things that a father is suppose to do. Its really sad to see. I don't know if things have gotten worse since I came to America but they certainly haven't gotten better.

Etan Thomas:  Do you think sports is a place where they can get that father figure and that discipline that they haven't gotten at home?

Dikembe Mutumbo: You know Etan, it really depends. You have been around long enough to know that not all coaches care about if their players turn out to be good men they just want them to be good players. My coach in college John Thompson cared about us. He made sure we did what we were suppose to do. He would yell at me with this big scary voice and almost scare you into doing right, but I knew he cared. And that is why to this day, he still has a close relationship with his former players because he taught us how to be men as well as become successful basketball players.

Etan Thomas: Tell me a little bit about your hospital in the Congo and why it was so important for you to build it

Dikembe Mutumbo:

It was important because there are so many people in the Congo who need help. And like my father taught me, you have to go back to help people who were not as fortunate to be in your position. I am very proud of what this hospital has been able to do for the people of Congo we have poverty different in Africa. When people are poor here in the states they are still living pretty good. In Africa when people are really poor, they have nothing. Now, if you have money then of course you can live just as nice as anyone else in America but a quarter of the poplulation in Kinsasha was living in poverty. So I had to do something to help. And the hospital which is called the Biamba Marie Mutumbo hospital after my Mother, has been a blessing to me people and I am proud to have been able to help them.