EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Bismack Biyombo’s off-court impact continues with donation for hospital
Mar 12, 2022, 3:12 PM | Updated: 4:20 pm
(Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — Bismack Biyombo couldn’t sleep.
The then-19-year-old had big-time expectations and goals for himself and his new team, the Charlotte Bobcats. In a lockout-shortened season, they went 7-59.
After struggling with how his first NBA season went, he woke up one morning with an urge to go back home to the Democratic Republic of Congo and run a basketball camp for kids.
Biyombo went out to buy 20-25 pairs of shoes for the kids, called his equipment manager to see if there was anything else he could take and called his brothers to track down 20-25 kids who wanted to be in the camp.
He packed six bags filled with shoes and his portable speaker.
“I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna be the DJ, I’m gonna be the coach, I’m just gonna have fun with these kids and imma give them a new pair of shoes, new t-shirts, shorts and all that stuff,'” Biyombo said Saturday.
Biyombo, now 29 and spending Year 11 of his NBA journey with the Phoenix Suns, knew how much this would mean to each kid because he was one of those kids. Biyombo had never received a new pair of shoes until he was 16, the time he left the country and then got the first fresh pair of kicks in his life.
Biyombo hosted the camp, finding so much joy in the little moments like some of the kids grabbing the shoes and then hiding them away later for the school year.
After seeing his parents and then going back to his hotel, he slept like a baby.
He woke up, talked to his parents again and started the idea of looking into giving back more often.
Biyombo spoke with sponsors and such, growing the camp to 100 kids the next year with gear provided by Nike. The camp even got to the point where they were giving out scholarships.
That was when Biyombo started the Bismack Biyombo Foundation in 2012. The purpose of the foundation is “to activate the human potential in the field of education, health and sport.”
The foundation is approaching a decade in and has now grown incredibly to have an impact that is difficult to fully grasp. They give out 185 scholarships each year, Biyombo is building his second school there and in 2019 he had 1,000 kids participate in his basketball and soccer clinics.
Through all of the foundation’s ventures to get Biyombo closer to his goal of having all Congolese able to access affordable health care, those efforts play a part in treating over 1,000 clinical patients each week.
That number is about to get a whole lot bigger. Biyombo announced on Friday he is donating the entirety of his salary with the Suns ($1.52 million) to build a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo in memory of his late father, Francois, who passed in August.
Bismack’s experience seeing his father at a hospital in the D.R.C., where Francois stayed to help oversee the foundation, motivated him to give those people in the hospital better conditions. While Bismack was fortunate enough to be in a position to get his father into a better facility in Europe, he couldn’t stop thinking about the people who weren’t able to do that.
The foundation had already gone through efforts of refurbishing hospitals and clinics that Biyombo had thought was enough but now he’s going on a scale he hopes will help multiple generations even further.
“I could sit here and complain about all these things that goes on and on. My dad and I would always go back and forth like, ‘We are doers. We take actions rather than sit here and complain. We educate the next generation. We have to build a platform so that hopefully a decade from now we don’t have to complain so much about the things we couldn’t fix and the information we couldn’t pass on to the next generation,'” he said.
The hospital will fittingly be named after Biyombo’s father who was an extremely giving and gracious person.
Biyombo remembers the way his childhood home was, having three people per bed in the bedroom for the boys. Some nights they didn’t have enough food for everyone but Biyombo’s dad was always welcoming others in.
“I was always asking my dad, ‘We don’t have enough but you’re still welcoming other people?’ It just don’t make sense but it was like you cannot also abandon people,” Biyombo said Saturday. “Whatever we have, we have to share with others, so we were raised in that mentality of sharing with others and caring for others. So it was like second-nature to me when I got to the league.
“Thank God I’ve made money that my kids don’t have to worry, my family. But I also think I was put in this position. I understand how important it is for me to be put in this position and I understand there is an opportunity to do something and I don’t want to waste it because we can only live for so long. ”
For Biyombo’s arrival in Phoenix, this was the goal from the jump. After spending time away from basketball to mourn his father, the person Biyombo called his first believer, Biyombo told his agent he wanted to play. But it was only going to be for a team that was the right fit and the season he was going to dedicate to his dad would have his compensation for it fully donated to the construction of the hospital in Francois’ name.
Biyombo found the right team in Phoenix, a group with championship aspirations that works hard and loves basketball just as much as he does.
To go back to Bismack and Francois being doers, that’s part of this monumental service Bismack has put into helping others. Because it’s not just about that. It’s showing others what they could do in his position, establishing a precedent for what is possible.
“I think there are opportunities here to do it now. And I think with those ones that perhaps we’ve been waiting for, we have to take this opportunity,” he said. “Otherwise, we will be looking for the next generation to do so (and then) they’re gonna look for the next generation and on and on. But if we can set a good example for the next generation I think when they’re coming they will do better than we are doing now.”
Biyombo called NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo his big brother, another person from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has also done countless amounts of humanitarian work for the country through his own foundation. Mutombo was someone Biyombo turned to so he could get in touch with the right people throughout his efforts to aid his people.
That is exactly the type of situation Biyombo is talking about. There is a gap in generations between the two but not with their intent to, quite simply, make the world a better place at such a high magnitude to take advantage of the position they are in.