Dikembe Mutombo is being treated for a brain tumor, the NBA announced Saturday on behalf of the Hall of Fame Center and his family.
The NBA said in a statement that Mutombo — who ranks second in NBA history in career blocks — is beginning treatment in Atlanta and is “in good spirits.”
“Dikembe and his family have requested privacy during this time so they can focus on his care,” the league said. “They thank you for your prayers and best wishes.”
Mutombo, 56, played 18 NBA seasons for the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Houston Rockets before retiring in 2008-09 .
He was the league’s best defensive player four times, made the All-NBA team three times and made eight All-Star games in 18 seasons. Mutombo ranks 17th in rebounds (12,359) and has 3,289 career blocks, second only to Hakeem Olajuwon (3,830). Mutombo playfully swung most of the blocks with his right index finger, a gesture that became his lasting signature.
Following his career, Mutombo worked extensively for charitable and humanitarian causes. He has served as an ambassador for the sport, particularly in the development of the African Basketball League, which completed its second season in May.
Mutombo was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. He most recently appeared at the Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, and two preseason games in Saitama, Japan. In August, Mutombo also appeared at an event in Mutombo’s home country of Congo, alongside U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
When they were together, Blinken praised Mutombo, telling him: “You’ve done a lot 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 Congolese people. His foundation led the construction of a 170-bed hospital in the capital Kinshasa, a facility that has treated nearly half a million people, whether they can afford it or not.
He has also served on the boards of many organizations, including Special Olympics International, the CDC Foundation, and the National Committee for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.