AMERICAN BASKETBALL LEGEND DIKEMBE MUTOMBO WINS LAUREUS SPORT FOR GOOD AWARD FOR HIS HUMANITARIAN WORK IN CONGO
Global TV audience watches Laureus World Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi Glittering Awards Ceremony celebrates the first ten years of Laureus
By: Robin Monsky Round Robin Sports
ABU DHABI, March 10, 2010 – Respected former American basketball player Dikembe Mutombo was a popular recipient of the Laureus Sport for Good Award in Abu Dhabi as the Laureus World Sports Academy paid tribute to his inspiring humanitarian work in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, through the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, a charitable organization he established in 1997 which aims to improve the health, education and quality of life for people in his home city of Kinshasa.
Focal point of his Foundation’s work has been the construction and opening of the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Centre in Masina, on the outskirts of Kinshasa, named after his late mother, which held its formal dedication ceremony in July 2007 and opened in December 2007. He has donated US$18 million to build the hospital in an area in which a quarter of the residents live in poverty.
Former US President George W. Bush paid public tribute to Mutombo’s work for African causes during his State of the Union address to the United States Congress in January 2007.
At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, President Nelson Mandela, the Patron of Laureus, said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair.” This has become the philosophy of Laureus; the driving force behind its work.
The Laureus Sport for Good Award is presented to an individual who has brought that simple, elemental truth to life. An individual who has used this theme as the inspiration for their work; a person who has made an outstanding contribution to society over many years and who has made a difference to the lives of young people around the world.
Mutombo was the seventh of ten children in his family. He says he sold fruit and vegetables for about US$1 a day in order to pay his school fees. He arrived in the United States in 1987 on an academic scholarship to attend Georgetown University in Washington, DC. His dream was to become a doctor and return to the Congo to practice medicine, but at Georgetown his basketball talents flourished.
The Denver Nuggets drafted Mutombo after his graduation from Georgetown and in 1996 he signed a five-year free agent contract with the Atlanta Hawks. In February 2001, Mutombo joined the Philadelphia 76ers where the team advanced to the 2001 NBA Finals for the first time since 1983. In August 2002 he joined the New Jersey Nets and that team reached the Finals in 2003. In late 2004, Mutombo moved to Houston Rockets where he remained until he retired in April 2009 after a knee injury. One of the greatest shot blockers of all time, he was the league's top defensive player four times and was selected for eight All-Star games during his career.
He has received many awards. He was honored with the President’s Service Award in 1999 and the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001. He was named in 2005 by FOXSports.com as the most generous professional athlete, ranking him first over Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods. He was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in June 2007. He participated in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders programme, as well as the NBA and UNICEF ‘United for Children, Unite against AIDS’ campaign. He was honored as the international recipient for the National Civil Rights Museums Sports Legacy Award in 2007, and he is a spokesman for the international relief agency CARE and is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Programme.
The 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognize sporting achievement during the period January 1 - December 31, 2009, are the premier honors on the international sporting calendar. The winners are chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time. The living legends of sport honoring the great athletes of today.
The names of the winners were announced at a televised Awards Ceremony staged at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, which also celebrated the first ten years in the life of Laureus and was attended by global figures from the world of sport and entertainment.
The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy present were: Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Nadia Comaneci, Kapil Dev, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick, Dawn Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Mika Hakkinen, Tony Hawk, Mike Horn, Kip Keino, Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, Alexey Nemov, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Monica Seles, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba and Steve Waugh.