NEW YORK, April 24 – Dikembe Mutombo, who announced his National Basketball Association career is over after suffering a knee injury Tuesday, was named the NBA Citizenship Award winner Thursday for humanitarian works.
The Houston Rockets reserve center to Chinese superstar Yao Ming, Mutombo hurt his left knee in a playoff loss Tuesday to Houston and said his days of playing basketball were over.
Mutombo became the first two-time winner of the award since it debuted in 1975, having already won the honor in 2001 for his charitable work while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 42-year-old native of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, played 18 NBA seasons, the most of any player from outside the United States. He plans to focus on his role as an advocate for humanitarian projects.
"This is something I will do for the rest of my life. No matter what I go do, whether working for the league or business for myself, doing humanitarian work, I don’t think there will be anybody who can stop me," Mutombo said.
Mutombo has worked for more than a decade to finance and establish a hospital in his native Kinshasa. He donated 19 million dollars and sought out contributions for the other 10 million dollars needed for the 300-bed facility.
The project, including financing equipment and medicines, is aimed at combating malaria, which Mutombo said claimed the lives of more than 300,000 children last year.
"If we can come up with two million dollars in treatment there is a chance for us to really eradicate malaria in that particular area," Mutombo said.
Mutombo, a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time NBA All-Star, ranks second in NBA’s all-time blocks with 3,289.
Mutombo averaged 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in a career that saw him play for Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston.
Other finalists for the honour, voted upon by a North American media panel, included San Antonio’s Bruce Bowen, Chicago’s Ben Gordon, New Jersey’s Devin Harris and Orlando’s Dwight Howard.