It wasn’t the Academy Awards, but the supporting cast sure sounds similar: Folks like Kevin Spacey, Hugh Grant, Gwyneth Paltrow, Clive Owen, Kyle MacLachlan and the distinctly un-blue Michelle Rodriguez. However, the beautiful people from Hollywood and London had in fact come together to acknowledge some of the sporting world’s greats.
The occasion in Abu Dhabi last evening was the presentation of the Laureus Awards, at which former NBA great Dikembe Mutombo bagged a prestigious Laureus Award in the special “Sport for Good” category. Mutombo won the prize in recognition of his charitable work in his native country Congo.
What? You’ve never heard of the Laureus Awards? Well, as it turns out, Laureus is a philanthropic organization made up of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Laureus World Sports Awards; its mission statement promises to “promote the use of sport as a tool for social change and celebrate sporting excellence.”
Further, “Laureus’ core concept is simple, brilliant and daunting” – hey, that’s what it says here – and the organization seeks “to create global awards that recognise the achievements of today’s sports heroes; to bring sportspeople together; united in achievement but divided by sporting code and then […] put their reach and the support and investment of Laureus’ Founding Patrons and Partners to work by supporting a message that can help social projects around the world who are using sport as a tool for social change.”
Oh, right. Back to Dikembe. Here’s a highlight clip:
Meanwhile, back in Abu Dhabi, the celebs and a whole lot of jocks/retired jocks got together to award Mutombo and eight others for sporting excellence. Though the Los Angeles Lakers were among the nominees in the category of “World Team of the Year,” the award instead went to the petrol-burning Brawn GP Formula One squad of the UK. Usain Bolt and Serena Williams were named Sportsman and -woman of the Year.
Winners were chosen by the – you guessed it – Laureus World Sports Academy, “the ultimate sports jury made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all-time.” Said jury seems to include no ballers, however. Hmmm…
In January, the finger-wagger and his Dikembe Mutombo Foundation Inc. received the John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award at the eighth annual Let Freedom Ring celebration in Washington, D.C. None other than president Barack Obama crashed the event (as far as attendees were concerned, at least) to congratulate/hang a bit with Dikembe; never one to miss a sports reference (or an opportunity to make a speech for that matter), Obama described Mutombo’s attacking African poverty “with the same ferocity with which he used to block shots in the NBA.”
What’s that you say, Mr. President? “…he used to block shots in the NBA”? Great!
The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation was established by the former Denver Nuggets/Houston Rockets/others stud in 1997 and has, among its many accomplishments in the African nation, assisted in the National Immunization Days for young children and established a hospital in the capital city of Kinshasa. (Did you know that, as a lad, Dikembe wanted to be a doctor? Go figure.)
Said Mutombo, in part, upon receiving the award: “All I wanted to do was change the living conditions of the people in Africa. It’s been very hard for me, every day as I played basketball, to see how many millions of children continued to die on the continent of Africa. More than 1.5 million children keep dying from malaria, which costs only 35 cents to treat. And women continue to die from child delivery, and it costs only 25 dollars to deliver a baby.”
Congratulations to Mutombo from BallinEurope, and here’s to hoping the big man keeps up the good work.