In a statement on Saturday, the NBA announced that retired Congolese basketball legend Dikembe Mutombo is undergoing treatment after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The 56-year-old NBA Hall of Famer is well known for his philanthropic endeavors in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Dikembe Mutombo is currently undergoing treatment for a brain tumor,” the statement, which was released on behalf of Mutombo’s family, said. “He is receiving the best care possible from a collaborative team of specialists in Atlanta and is in great spirits as he begins treatment. Dikembe and his family ask for privacy during this time so they can focus on his care.”
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mutumbo played in the NBA from 1991 until 2009. He recorded 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks during 18 seasons spent mostly with Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, and Houston Rockets.
“We know he will approach this challenge with the same determination and grit that have made him a legend on and off the court,” the Atlanta Hawks shared on Twitter.
The retired basketball legend had a very formidable career in the NBA and is well-remembered for his defensive prowess. He is currently the second player with the most blocked shots in the NBA. Mutombo also won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1995, 1997, 1998, and 2001. The 56-year-old and Detroit Pistons legend Ben Wallace are the only NBA players to have scooped this award four times.
The Congolese native and Nigeria’s Hakeem Olajuwon made a mark in the NBA as the league’s first notable basketball stars from Africa. Mutombo made it to the NBA finals with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets. But he lost on both occasions.
Outside of basketball, Mutombo, a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Program, is noted for his contribution to humanitarianism. In 2018, he received the Sager Strong Award for his humanitarian work in his native Democratic Republic of Congo.
And aside from building the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named after his mother, Mutombo has provided free breast and cervical cancer screenings for women. He has also played instrumental roles in the fight against polio in the Democratic Republic of Congo by leading vaccination efforts and treatments.