Dikembe Mutombo retired from professional basketball following the NBA playoffs in 2009. Yet even at the age of 54, he remains confident he could still roam the paint and swat away the attempts of the game’s premier post players. “Of course, I would,” says Mutombo. “Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokić—those are my two picks for MVP this season. If I were on the court with them, they would be able to get a few shots up, but only a few. I would remind them I’m the master of ceremonies.”
During his 19-year career—in which he played for five teams and was named the Defensive Player of the Year four times—Mutombo blocked 3,289 shots, the second-most in NBA history. He punctuated many of them with a finger wag. It’s a signature move he employs in Geico commercials, which have introduced him to a whole new generation of fans.
Mutombo even performs the gesture while playing himself in Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 Eddie Murphy hit. “I’ve been getting phone calls from friends all over, even in Africa, where they are watching the movie in French, to say congratulations.”
If you’re wondering what keeps Mutombo fueled up to tackle these projects, well, that brings us to his other passion. “I’m a coffee lover,” says Mutombo, who drinks several cups a day to caffeinate his 7’2″ frame. “I love to drink coffee,” he says, “and my country produces some of the best coffee, but the world doesn’t know about it.”
Coffee has historically been an important crop in Congo, but production has plummeted in the past 20 years as violence and civil unrest have racked the country. “It almost destroyed the fabric of our society,” says Mutombo. “It destroyed our history and the way we are portrayed.”
So he is doing his best to shine a positive light on his homeland, something he did often during his playing days, when he twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. He launched Mutombo Coffee, a line of signature roasts and is sourcing his beans from Congo and other African countries—with a focus on closing the gender gap in the coffee industry.