For using his star power to make a difference in his homeland
Some pro athletes wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on flashy cars and jewelry, but Bismack Biyombo had a different plan for his earnings this year. The 29-year-old National Basketball Association (NBA) player opted to donate his entire US$1.3 million salary as a center for the Phoenix Suns toward building a hospital in his war-torn home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The hospital will be named after Biyombo’s father, Francois Biyombo, who died from COVID-19 last year.
"When my dad was sick, I had no choice but to take him out of the Congo to get him better healthcare," he says. "It opened my eyes. I had the means to take my dad out—but what about the others who couldn’t take their family member out of the country? This is about trying to save as many lives as we can."
Such social impact projects are nothing new for the athlete. In 2012, he launched the Bismack Biyombo Foundation, which began by building a school for 25 students. "Over time, it went from 25 kids to 100 kids," he says. "Then it went from one city to three cities, and it’s just continued to grow."
The organization branched out beyond schools as well, creating athletic and healthcare programs for Congolese youth. Today, the foundation has 150 students enrolled in its three academies and treats more than 1,000 patients in its clinics each week. The organization’s summer camps provide basketball and football programming to 1,000 kids each summer.
Biyombo sees basketball and social impact as twin passions rather than competing priorities.
"Basketball is important to me," says Biyombo, who picked up the game at age 13. "I love basketball. But there is also a life outside of basketball. I enjoy serving people. I find it fun working for the foundation. I look forward to those days."