Basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo is being treated for a brain tumor in Atlanta, the NBA announced on Saturday.
Mutombo has been one of the NBA’s global ambassadors for many years, recently appearing at Hall of Fame enshrinement events in Springfield, Massachusetts and a few preseason games in Saitama, Japan.
He also appeared with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at an event in Congo, Mutombo’s native country, in August.
“He is receiving the best possible care from a collaborative team of specialists in Atlanta and is in a good mood when he begins treatment,” Mutombo’s family said in a statement distributed by the NBA. “Dikembe and his family ask for privacy during this time so they can focus on his care. They are grateful for your prayers and good wishes.”
The family has not released any other details, including why the tumor was discovered.
Mutombo, 56, played 18 seasons in the NBA, playing for Denver, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, New York and the then New Jersey Nets. The Georgetown 7-foot-2 center was an eight-time All-Star, four-time defensive player of the year, three-time All-NBA roster, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Mutombo last played during the 2008-09 season and has worked extensively for charitable and humanitarian causes since then. Blinken praised him when the pair were together in Congo, telling Mutombo “you’ve done so much to bring the world together.”
Mutombo speaks nine languages and founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997, which focuses on improving the health, education and quality of life of the people of Congo. His foundation led the construction of a 170-bed hospital in Kinshasa, the capital, and that facility has treated nearly half a million people regardless of their ability to pay for care.
He has also served on the boards of many organizations, including Special Olympics International, the CDC Foundation, and the National Board for the US Fund for UNICEF.