Q&A with Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

The Atlanta Sports Award recently honored former Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo with a lifetime achievement award.

Before the ceremony, Mutombo met with members of the media and gave his thoughts on topics such as living in Atlanta, his view of the progress of the Hawks and the global view of basketball.

What it means for you tonight to be honored for a lifetime achievement award? 

It’s great, I cannot tell you how happy I am, to receive this special award tonight, it’s a blessing. Not just for me, but for my family, to be recognized by the city of Atlanta for all the great work that we’ve been doing all around the globe.

When did it come about for you during your professional career that you really wanted to spend your life giving back to your home area, your roots and just living the rest of your life by always just giving back to the community? 

I was inspired by my family, my mom and dad, I’ve been doing this thing since I was a younger age, like a little baby, so I learned a lot from that. I want to carry those values of life and those traditions with me, hopefully I will get a chance and an opportunity to pass that along to my children.

What does the city of Atlanta mean to you in your career and your lifetime? 

This is home. This is home for me, all my babies are born here. This is the place I call home. This is where I live, and this is where I want to spend the rest of my life, and it doesn’t get better than this.

How have you seen the city change during your time here, especially the sports landscape? 

You know, every where I go around the world, people talk about just how big and beautiful an airport we have. Right now people talk about all those great sports facilities we have. People talk about Mercedes-Benz Stadium, people talk about State Farm Arena now they’re talking about everything that’s coming and surrounding like the facilities that even the young people can go and play basketball, soccer, volleyball. This is great, the city is growing, I just wish we can build more roads. (Laughs)

What are your thoughts on the Atlanta Hawks’ not necessarily rebuilding, but structuring the team for long-term success? 

I love my team, the Hawks, not just for the fact they retired my jersey, but I was fortunate enough to play there for five years, and I want them to succeed. I think as young as they are and the great progress they made last year, bringing in new coaches, new stuff and the great dynamic on the team, if they (succeed in this year’s draft), I think we’re all going to be there cheering for them for the course of it, so I’m looking forward to that.

One thing that has sort of changed in terms of basketball as a whole is the globalization of the (NBA). You see it with the Toronto Raptors, they have so many international players on their team. What it’s like for you to see that? 

That tells you more about our game. Our game is becoming global, not just to the extent where we see more people watching our game worldwide, but we have to understand now that there are more than 140-plus players who are international playing in the NBA from all of the corners of the world. We hope that it will keep going. It’s made basketball become a global game. We see that with soccer, we see that with volleyball, we see that with swimming and tennis, why not basketball? Why not the NBA?

I know you have family undergoing the process of playing amateur basketball with hopes of making it professionally. In terms of amateur players choosing to go play overseas instead of going to college, what is your opinion on those decisions? 

I’m worried. I’m worrying about the young people who are leaving early. I understand that its good to go and make money, (but) in the same token, we have to understand there’s opportunities for education. Education remains the key of life. It is the way sports is going now, its hard to tell young people today that you cannot do that. Especially with the way the world is going. We didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up, so hopefully each one of them will find the time in the summer time to go to school. We need to encourage them. We cannot just talk about it, we need to be there, be advocates about it.