Eight-time NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo didn’t start playing basketball until age 16. A smart young man, who happened to be 7’2″, the Congolese-American went to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on an academic scholarship, planning to study medicine. Basketball didn’t become a priority until late in his college career, and the Denver Nuggets would draft him in 1991 at the fourth pick overall, according to Britannica.
He would go on to win four NBA defensive player of the year (DPOY) awards in 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, and 2000-01. He later played for the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and Houston Rockets. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
During his playing days, Mutombo was known for his signature finger wag, which, as ESPN notes, inspired an entire generation of confident athletes. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Mutombo said of his famous gesture, “I really didn’t have a signature [at the time] … I had to come up with something [for when] I was dominating a game.”
Another thing to note about Dikembe Mutombo is his charitable side. He founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 to build hospitals in central Africa. He traveled the world as the NBA’s Global Ambassador, and he won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009.