By Official Release
Posted Apr 23 2009 1:26PM
NEW YORK -- Dikembe Mutombo of the Houston Rockets is the 2008-09 recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. The award is named for the second commissioner of the league and honors an NBA player or coach for outstanding service and dedication to the community.
Mutombo, in his 18th NBA season, becomes the first two-time winner of the award since it was first presented in 1975. The Rockets' 7-foot-2 center was cited in 2000-01 for his charitable works while playing with the Philadelphia 76ers -- which mirrors his timeline in striving for the past decade to establish and fund the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center in his native Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mutombo solicited contributions for the $29 million, 300-bed facility and personally donated approximately $19 million. The staggering costs of continuing to provide care to women and children in that region and to acquire medical equipment and supplies has kept his Dikembe Mutombo Foundation busy and focused, with a goal of reaching 100,000 grass-roots donors ($20 or more a year) by the end of June 2009. Those interested in the project or in donating can sign up through the Web site (www.DMF.org) or call 1-877-funddmf.
"My prayer is that as many people as we have in Houston, maybe 100,000 will respond to my call to donate $20 or more," Mutombo told the Houston Chronicle in March. "After that, I'm planning to go after every city that I played for."
The eight-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has split his career with teams in Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston.
One avowed goal of Mutombo's hospital project is to fight malaria, which he said killed more than 300,000 children last year. "The treatment will cost no more than $10," Mutombo said. "If we can come up with $2 million in treatment...there is a chance for us to really eradicate malaria in that particular area."
"This is something I will do for the rest of my life. No matter what I go do, whether it is working for the league or business for myself, doing humanitarian work, I don't think there will be anybody who can stop me."
"That Dikembe Mutombo would be the first player to repeat as a J. Walter Kennedy award winner speaks as highly of the honor as it does of him," said Doug Smith, president of the PBWA. "No player has given more freely his time, his money and himself, on a consistent basis, than Mutombo through the years. His and his foundation's continuing efforts in building, maintaining and improving the hospital in Kinshasa are widely known and set a standard for NBA players and, frankly, athletes across all sports. The PBWA is delighted to present him -- again -- with this award."
The PBWA represents approximately 150 writers for newspapers, magazines and Internet services who cover the NBA on a regular basis. Members nominate players and vote for the award. The five finalists this season were Mutombo, Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs, Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls, Devin Harris of the New Jersey Nets and Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.
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