You haven’t heard much from D.J. Mbenga this season, as he’s buried behind Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom on L.A.’s bench.
But take a few moments to speak with him, and you immediately realize that he has a great deal to say, and not just about basketball.
Mbenga, who was born in Congo but forced to grow up in Belgium due to political circumstances in his home country, has an insatiable desire for learning, and spends much of his free time keeping up with the latest world news, particularly the largely dire situation in Congo. Indeed, when I stroll by Mbenga’s locker before most games, it’s not that night’s opponent but the latest news around which our conversations center, even if just for a minute.
Accordingly, prior to Tuesday night’s game in Houston, we began to talk about Congo since Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo is actually from the same town as D.J., and has served as Mbenga’s big brother since Mbenga came into the league. Mutombo’s done amazing things for his people in Africa, including putting a widely-reported $16 million of his own money to build a hospital.
And while Mbenga is extremely proud of Mutombo and will always look up to him, his focus is education.
“We’re trying to educate these people and especially these young kids,” Mbenga explained. “Even one dollar is a lot for someone over there, so that’s why we do everything we can … Education is very important. When you educate, you save the world.”
As such, Mbenga has actually set up a foundation – The Mbenga Foundation – specifically designed to help children in Africa, which you can link to below:
MBENGA FOUNDATION: Caring and Sharing
Here’s the audio from our conversation in Houston, in which Mbenga details the need for education in Congo and talks specifically about what he’s doing to extend a helping hand to his country.