Houston's Dikembe Mutombo 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.
The announcement couldn't have been more appropriate, especially considering the timing. Mutombo suffered what he has called a career-ending knee injury during Game 2 of Houston's playoff series against Portland.
Mutombo, in his 18th NBA season, becomes the first two-time winner of the award since it was first presented in 1975. The 7-2 center was cited in 2000-01 for his charitable works while playing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Over the past decade, he has established and funded Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center in his native Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mutombo solicited contributions for the $29 million, 300-bed facility and personally donated approximately $19 million.
One goal of Mutombo's hospital project is to fight malaria, which he said killed more than 300,000 children last year.
"This is something I will do for the rest of my life,'' Mutombo says. "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."
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.