SPRINGFIELD: Former NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo, women’s basketball great Lisa Leslie and Lindsay Gaze of Australia were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday (Saturday in Manila) night.
The enigmatic shot blocker headed the class of 2015, which was enshrined during a lavish ceremony at the Naismith museum in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“I am so honored to be in the basketball hall of fame. I only want to be remembered as one of the best defensive players to ever to play this game. I think I accomplished that,” said Mutombo, 49.
Mutombo, from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been active outside of basketball in humanitarian work that includes building hospitals in Africa.
He and his wife Rose have six children, four of whom are adopted.
The four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year led the NBA in blocked shots five seasons in a row from 1994-1998 and over 18 NBA seasons from 1991 to 2009.
He produced 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds and 3,289 blocked shots. He famously wagged his finger to celebrate along the way.
In 2004, he participated in the Basketball Without Borders NBA programme, where NBA stars like Shawn Bradley, Malik Rose, and DeSagana Diop toured Africa to spread the word about basketball and to improve the infrastructure.
“I have worn many uniforms. I want to thank all of my teammates who have helped me along the way,” he said.
“I am proud I was only the third African player to play in the NBA. I came to the USA with nothing and now I am part of NBA history.”
Mutombo was enshrined along with former NBA players Spencer Haywood and Jo Jo White. Candidates needed at least 18 of 24 votes from the honors committee to be inducted.
Seven-time Olympian Gaze was among five direct-elect inductees.
Gaze, whose son Andrew became an Aussie star and played in the NBA, was joined on the sport shrine’s honor list by former American Basketball Association star Louis Dampier, former NBA coach Tom Heinsohn, 1940s star John Issacs and former college coach George Raveling.