Rockets paying tribute to Mutombo

HOUSTON The team could say, "Thank you for playing so well when Yao Ming went down." But they are honoring Mutombo on Thursday night for an impact that goes far beyond the basketball court.

Everyone attending Wednesday night's game will get a foam finger so they can wag right along with the NBA's second-leading career shot-blocker. But more than that, they can also honor a man who has given more than $15 million out of his own pocket to help build the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in the Congo, which opened last year. Rockets owner Les Alexander is donating $500,000 to the cause.

"My goal is just to try to get about 40,000 people across the country who will give me $50 a year and the opportunity to develop and support my hospital.

"It's tough when you're doing God's work and for the people to be interested about giving you a hand. That's what it is," he said.

Mutombo is appreciative of his boss's contribution and extremely proud to have commissioner David Stern at the ceremony. Mutombo compares it to his appearance at the State of the Union.

"It's big. It's almost like the State of the Union. When the boss of the bosses comes, it's always good to see him," Mutombo said.

Even though the season began with Mutombo saying this would be his 17th and final NBA season, Wednesday night is not necessarily a goodbye, because Mutombo may be reconsidering. Just ask him.

After all, you can't get enough of a good guy.

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