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Sep 17

True Love-Sports Talk With Anthony Bonelli

Love is a very complex emotion that can be expressed in so many different ways, and towards so many different things and people. Love also brings out admirable qualities in people, such as determination, selflessness, respect, as well as so many other great attributes. Sometimes in life we are lead down, what we think, is an unlikely path to success, but in most cases as time passes we gain an understanding as to why we were led down that particular path. In the professional world, people are always trying to do their best to reach the pinnacle of their profession of choice. The members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2015 were no different, but as they would tell you, it was because of the love that the people who guided them showed them during their journey that helped them reach the pinnacle of their profession.

Dikembe Mutombo said during last Thursday’s Hall of Fame press conference, where the class received their Hall of Fame Jackets,When young people dream, you have no idea where it will take you.” Being an NBA superstar, let alone Hall of Famer, was not even a thought in Mutombo’s mind, he was not even introduced to the game of basketball until he was 17. Mutombo was not fond of the idea of playing basketball, but due to the insistence of his older brother and father, Mutombo finally agreed to start learning about and playing the game. Mutombo began playing for the Zaire National team alongside his older brother. While Dikembe was traveling and playing with the national team, he caught the eye of a US Embassy Official named Hermann Henning who is also a former basketball coach. Henning decided to take Dikembe under his wing and introduced him to people that would help him flourish in college, both in the classroom and on the basketball court. Henning thought that Dikembe would prosper most under a patient coach who also played the center position – legendary Hall of Fame Georgetown University Coach John Thompson fit that description perfectly. When asked about the first meeting between himself and Thompson, Mutombo responded,“Coach Thompson’s eyes lit up and he said when can you start playing for me.” Thompson praised Mutombo’s unselfishness when asked about the meeting.

During his first three years in the United States. Mutombo struggled with learning a new language and a new lifestyle. He was determined, however, to succeed in all phases of his college experience. He studied English for six hours a day and then went to classes, not to mention the fact that he played for one of college basketball’s most demanding coaches in Thompson.

When people enter college, it is said that during the process of obtaining their degree, that besides from the scholastic knowledge they will gain, they will also have life experiences that will help them as they enter the workforce. In Mutombo’s case, this is an understatement – he was experiencing the rigorous workload of college while assimilating himself into the American culture. It is also said that once a person graduates from college they are a transformed person. Mutombo certainly was a transformed person after graduating from Georgetown, not only because of his hard work and determination in the classroom and on the basketball court, but also because of the love and guidance he was shown by so many great individuals who certainly had his best interests at heart.

The advent of the internet allows people to retrieve information and gain knowledge in an instant. An NBA fan can look up the statistical information of their favorite player at any time or from anywhere. Keeping that in mind, in my opinion, it is not necessary to list the statistical reasons why Mutombo is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2015, because the numbers he amassed during his 18 year career do not even tell one quarter of his inspirational story.

Professional athletes, most times, are fortunate enough to consider themselves and their families financially secure. Some athletes use their status in society and fortune to give back to special causes that affect or affected them during their life’s journey. Mutombo, the self-proclaimed son of the Congo, had a goal when he decided to embark on an NBA career: help his native land in any way possible whether it be financially or by spending time with the less fortunate people in his country. While Mutombo’s statistical information may be easy to search for, what might get overlooked while searching for this information is the fact that because of the NBA, Mutombo was able to build a hospital in the Congo that has served over 140,000 people – which he mentioned with a sense of pride in his voice during his enshrinement speech Friday night.

Basketball has a way of teaching people what life is really about. Mutombo said something very powerful at the conclusion of his enshrinement speech: “I may not have won an NBA Championship, but I am a champion at home.” Mutombo’s acts of kindness truly show the greatest expression of love towards the people who touched his life and the people who helped him during his journey to Springfield, Massachusetts and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

1 comment

  1. lisa

    Loved this story!!! Great Job Anthony you always have away to uplift me when I’m down!!

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