Dubs Talk

Warriors' Kuminga dreams of helping not just Congo but all of Africa

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SAN FRANCISCO – When Jonathan Kuminga discusses his homeland, he does so in a steady voice that affirms conviction, even as his eyes convey the misery they’ve seen. Count him among those with a deep desire to bring peace and stability to region long foreign to the concept.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is caught in the grip of 30 years of unabated instability. It is a region at war within and beyond, with various groups of varying degrees of militancy largely responsible for a death toll that by some reports exceeds six million.

Kuminga ponders the state of the DRC and concludes that “it doesn’t sit right in my heart.” 

Yet this is environment where Kuminga, in Year 3 of a four-year rookie NBA contract worth $24.9 million, was born and raised. Where he spent the first 13 years of his life in a family that found villages stable enough to learn of life beyond the borders and, as he grew taller, fall in love with basketball.

And, moreover, where he could dream of pursuing ways to utilize his celebrity and wealthy should he become an NBA star.

“That's always the goal,” Kuminga says as a guest on the latest "Dubs Talk," which debuted Thursday. “I never think of being here. I just work and let things happen. Me just being here, and it's so much more that comes with it.

“Since I was a kid, since I got to America, I always thought about just making it to a point where I could be able to go back and help. Not just to the Congo, because everybody wants to help where they came from. But I look at the point where I want to build so much where I could be able to help a lot of people in Africa, different countries, different cities.”

Keep in mind that Kuminga turned 21 last October. But the combo forward’s skills have been developing at an accelerated rate this season, enough for Warriors coach Steve Kerr to put him in the starting lineup at midseason. He has All-Star potential.

Kuminga’s love of basketball led him as a child to tie on a pair of decrepit shoes and head to courts surfaced with dirt. If he couldn’t play, he’d seek cash from his parents to a pay for 30 minutes of Wi-Fi time at an Internet Café. He’d put on headphones and stare into the screen at highlights, mostly of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.

A kid, dreaming of the game. And what he could do if he was good enough to get to America and maybe reach the NBA. Though he might have been miles away from the fiercest violence, he was close enough to know it existed.

He also knew of others who had made from Africa, even the Congo, it to the NBA. The first and most notable is Dikembe Mutombo, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year who played 18 seasons and earned his way into the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Mutombo over the last quarter century has donated countless hours and millions in funds generated through the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to various causes to aid those in the DRC – including $15 million to build a hospital. His private equity firm, BlueTech Investments, invested $1 billion toward ethical mining projects in the mineral-rich region.

“Just seeing somebody like that, it's definitely somebody that I look up to on different aspect,” Kuminga says. “The way he helped the country, the way he helped certain people, building hospitals, helping kids that were needy, sick kids and stuff like that. He’s somebody that I always talked to on the phone most of the time, and then I get to meet him in person. Obviously talking to somebody on the phone and in person is two different things. He’s way cooler. A great person in real life.”

Kuminga feels fortunate to be playing with others who share his desire to campaign for social equality and speak out on social causes and invest in projects that help the underserved. Kerr and the team’s longtime superstar, Stephen Curry, have been highly visible and made numerous contributions to promote a more just planet.

Kuminga relates that it struck a chord with him when Kerr told him the story of his father, Malcolm Kerr, being assassinated by terrorists in Beirut in 1984. Such violence is a common occurrence in the DRC, so Kuminga is sensitive to it and feels others should feel compassion.

“It's obviously important, not just to me but to everybody else,” Kuminga says. “There's just things that when I look at it, it's just the same as . . .. Do you guys know what's going on in Congo right now?  It’s just the killing, the things like that. It doesn't sound great. It adds to the next generation and, obviously, it's just not a fair way to live life.”

That’s what Kuminga wants to change. That’s at the root of his desire to be an NBA star. He wants to be great for the sake of his family. For his troubled homeland. For all of Africa.

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