Dikembe Mutombo retired from professional basketball after the NBA playoffs in 2009. Yet even at the age of 54, he remains confident that he could still roam the paint and crush the attempts of the game’s best pole players. . “Of course I would,” says Mutombo. “Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokić, those are my two MVP picks this season. If I were on the court with them, they might make a few shots, but only a few. I would remind them that I am the master of ceremonies. “
During his 19-year career, in which he played for five teams and was named Defensive Player of the Year four times, Mutombo blocked 3,289 shots, the second-most in NBA history. He pointed to many of them with a flick of his finger. It’s a signature move that he employs in Geico commercials, which have introduced him to a whole new generation of fans.
“Wherever I go now, I hear, ‘No, no, no!’ And I say: ‘No, my name is Mutombo!’ “, He says. “I never thought that what I was doing on the basketball court would become a distinctive part of my life. For me, it was fun doing it, even though I was fined many times for it. People forget it. I lost a lot of money on that finger flick; I received so many technical fouls. I had a lot of conversations with the commissioner about it, but everything went well. “
Mutombo even performs the gesture while playing himself in Coming 2 America, the sequel to Eddie Murphy’s 1988 hit. “I have been receiving phone calls from friends everywhere, even in Africa, where they are watching the film in French, to congratulate me.”
But most of his time these days is devoted to much more serious endeavors. His Dikembe Mutombo Foundation built the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital (named for his mother) in Kinshasa, his hometown in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And last year he began construction of the Samuel Mutombo Institute of Science and Entrepreneurship (named after his father) in Mbuji-Mayi. “My parents taught me to leave the world better than I found it,” says Dikembe. “I’ve been very lucky in my life and I need to give back, always.”
If you’re wondering what keeps Mutombo ready to tackle these projects, well, that brings us to his other passion. “I’m a coffee lover,” says Mutombo, who drinks several cups a day to caffeinate his 7’2 “figure.” I love to drink coffee, “he says,” and my country produces some of the best coffee, but the world doesn’t know it. “
Coffee has historically been an important crop in the Congo, but production has plummeted in the past 20 years as violence and civil unrest have ravaged the country. “It almost destroyed the fabric of our society,” says Mutombo. “It destroyed our history and the way we are portrayed.”
So he’s doing his best to shine a positive light on his homeland, something he did often during his playing days, when he twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. He launched Mutombo Cafe, a line of exclusive roasts and sources its beans from the Congo and other African countries, with a focus on closing the gender gap in the coffee industry.
Women do most of the field work, harvesting and sorting, but they see very little money, so Mutombo Coffee does as much business as possible with women farmers.
Building a sustainable and viable business, as well as building a supply chain amid COVID, remain Mutombo’s focus. His character and track record provide a glimpse of the vigilance and discipline that have made the Hall of Famer so successful off the field.
“We are adding what is missing,” says Mutombo. “Our contribution to the world of coffee will really mean something.
“Basketball gave me the power to change the world. I was able to improve my community; I was able to change lives and improve the living situation of women and children in Africa. That is what we are doing now with coffee. We also want to improve the lives of our farmers ”.
This is clearly not the case for an athlete throwing their name and likeness on a cheap product to make a quick buck. A look at what goes into their signature blend, Mutombo # 55 Coffee, shows how seriously they take their coffee.
The infusion comes from arabica beans that are grown in volcanic soil and then aged in oak bourbon barrels. Other flavors – Mutombo is a big fan of flavored coffee – include cinnamon bun and white chocolate macadamia. “We don’t sell coffee because I’m Dikembe Mutombo,” he says.
“We sell coffee because the coffee is very good.”
As during his playing career, Mutombo continues to give credit to his teammates. His coffee brand development proceeded at a fluid pace during COVID, he says, because everyone was so committed to the vision of sharing Congolese coffee with the world.
“On the business side, COVID meant that everyone was close and available to us,” says Mutombo. “I am lucky to be surrounded by such good people and I give all that credit to the team around me. They have really worked very hard.
“We all believe in this. We have women farmers who are going to show a completely different side of the Congo ”.
This fall, Mutombo will have to take even more time out of his schedule to return to his alma mater, Georgetown, where his son Ryan will be a freshman on the Hoyas basketball team. (He is the third child of a great Georgetown man to follow in his father’s footsteps, behind Patrick Ewing Jr. and Trey, the son of Alonzo Mourning.)
That means Mutombo will need even more fuel, which is fine for a Javanese lover looking to change the world one cup at a time.
“There is a lot of meaning behind each cup, supporting women farmers,” she says. “The world is going to learn a whole new side of my home country.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.