Myck Kabongo, who uses Lu-Kusa WOE as his musical pseudonym, says that while Cole may have been criticized for veering out of his lane and attempting to play pro ball, athletes face similar backlash when they show a strong interest in making music. “There’s a stigma behind: ‘Oh, he’s an athlete. We don’t want to hear it.’ [Many] athletes that do put music out — it’s trash, to be honest — and I take my time and I write my music,” Kabongo told ESPN. “I’ve studied hip-hop since I was a kid. I take it much more seriously than your average rapper who is just going in there to be cool. I actually have something to say. My music is going to touch people and affect people in a positive way.
“In Canada, I’m already almost at a million streams, which is insane independently. I just know with the machine behind me, I have music that… I’ve travelled so much, so my music will resonate and relate to so many more people than just myself,” he said. “Obviously, the US is where you want to explode and blow up for hip-hop. I think, the way the world is now, I just need a label to put the backing behind it. I think once people listen to it, they’ll gravitate to it and it will do the way it’s supposed to do.”
DJ Strawberry: “I think [watching Darryl Sr. play baseball] pushed me more towards basketball. I grew up seeing everything that goes on around baseball, and basketball was something new to me, it was something kind of different.”
Why did you specifically decide to build a hospital in your dad’s honor in the Congo? Biyombo: In the Congo, there is one doctor for every 10,000 people. Initially, when I went home, we were refurbishing clinics and hospitals with new equipment. When my dad got sick, I got home and saw the conditions it was in. It was alarming to me. I started thinking in the back of my mind that he doesn’t have the best chance to make it. We started bringing in doctors and different equipment. Some of the local doctors didn’t know how to use the new equipment. This became a problem. When I went to the hospital every day, there were so many people and beds going empty every day with new people coming in. I asked myself, in my mind, “I have the means to do this for my dad, but how about these other people?” There were people that were just there hopeless. At that moment, there wasn’t much I could do for these people.
Bismack Biyombo: Once my dad passed away, I came back and was dealing with my emotions and got discouraged from doing things like playing basketball. I realized if my dad was alive, he’d never let me walk away from something I love, which is playing basketball. Then, I went back and forth, trying to find something to motivate me to play for something bigger than just being in the league. That’s when I told my agent in November and said I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually ready to play, but I wanted to take my salary and direct it to the construction of a hospital. The only way I’d play is if it was a winning team because I want to be able to win something this year.
So when the Basketball Africa League began its second season on March 5 at Dakar Arena, it was only fitting that Mutombo was there representing the foundation of African basketball. “He is truly invaluable,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said of Mutombo. “He has been incredible. He’s been an ambassador, not only a global ambassador for the NBA, but he’s been ambassador for this sport in the continent, on the continent and around the world, right? He’s a global ambassador for us, but his presence here means so much because he is what, when young Africans look up to [an NBA player], they look up to Dikembe because he did it. He did it [at] the highest level.”
Stern — who understood the importance of promoting the NBA to the world by playing exhibition games in Europe, getting games on television in China and spreading Basketball Without Borders programs all over the world — made Mutombo the NBA’s first global ambassador in 2009. “I believed Stern back then because he had the capacity and the knowledge to make things happen,” Mutombo said of the former commissioner, who died in 2020. “He was a very smart man who wanted to rule the continent. I’m so happy that our commissioner Adam Silver and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum [are] following [in Stern’s] footsteps very well. They are committed to the promise David made to see the continent shine.”