NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo was the unmissable star at this week’s official opening of the Sylvan Adams Sports Center at the Jerusalem International YMCA.
Mutombo, the Hall of Famer who stands 2.18-meters (7.15 feet) tall, was in Israel as part of his role as NBA Global Ambassador. The center will provide children from East Jerusalem with access to a half-Olympic size pool, a new indoor basketball court, multi-purpose exercise rooms and a rooftop garden plaza. Mutombo joined youth and coaches from the new Junior NBA Jerusalem International YMCA League to tip-off the league’s draft and hosted a Junior NBA youth basketball clinic.
“This place has been a dream, and I am so happy that I am here for such a great event,” said Mutombo. He added that he believed the new center would “provide all the young people of Jerusalem with a place to play and grow together as the next generation.”
The new NBA-YMCA league aims to “bring together 450 youth, ages 11-13 from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities in an after-school basketball league,” according to league organizers. “The program, which will see the youth compete on 30 teams each representing an NBA team, will include basketball instruction, competitive play and life-skills programming focused on cultural understanding, team-building and leadership. Each team will also receive corresponding NBA team-branded uniforms for their games.”
Sports is a “great unifier,” noted Sylvan Adams, the philanthropist behind the project. “And perhaps out of this facility we’ll have the next Michael Phelps, another Omri Casspi, or perhaps an Israeli Dikembe Mutombo.”