GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico — In March 2022, NBA star Bismack Biyombo decided to donate his full seasonal salary to fund the construction of a hospital in his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as a way to honor his late father by giving back to their home country. The donation of his $1.3 million salary, according to his contract with the Phoenix Suns, will improve health care in his hometown. The Bismack Biyombo Foundation, which the NBA star created at age 19, has supported several humanitarian efforts in the DRC, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation will carry out the construction of the hospital.
Biyombo’s Upbringing and His Father’s Example
In an interview on the Phoenix Suns’ YouTube channel, Biyombo said that he grew up in a three-bedroom home in the Congo. When he was a child, he lived with his parents, his three brothers and three sisters. Their home had three bedrooms and one bathroom. His parents had one bedroom, the boys had another and the girls had the third. He grew up watching his dad helping people and caring for his neighbors.
Biyombo’s father’s dedication was so unwavering that, although at times the family did not have enough food for all, they always welcomed those in need into their home. At one point, there were nine boys in the boys’ room, all sleeping together with three per bed. Biyombo recounted how on one occasion, he asked his dad why they kept welcoming more people into their home when they barely had enough for the seven siblings and two parents. His father replied: “You cannot abandon people. Whatever we have, we have to share with others.”
This is how Biyombo recalls his upbringing. His parents raised him and his siblings with a “mentality of sharing with others and caring for others” to the point that it became “second nature” to him.
The Bismack Biyombo Foundation
This example and lifestyle of helping and caring for others later led Biyombo to start his Foundation in 2016 at the age of 19. After having what he calls “one of the worst seasons probably in the history of the league,” he spent two weeks struggling with sleeplessness. After that season came to a close, he traveled back home to the Congo and began giving back to the community.
He created a basketball camp and, with the support of his equipment manager, gifted new shirts, shoes and shorts to about 25 children. Biyombo recounted that the first night after giving back to his community, he finally “slept like a baby” and this motivated him to continue doing this day after day.
He quickly realized he needed to continue helping his community. He simply wanted the children to “have new stuff because, at their age, the first time [he had a]brand new pair of shoes was when [he]was 16 and left the country.” So, he decided to start giving back and later created the Bismack Biyombo Foundation along with his father.
The Foundation’s mission statement was to “propel the belief that the opportunities we receive aren’t intended for our benefit alone” but rather that we should multiply them “through the lives of others.” The Foundation “focuses on creating initiatives in three areas to multiply opportunities for children in the DRC: athletics, education and health.” As of 2022, the Bismack Biyombo Foundation has granted 185 annual scholarships, enrolled 150 academy students annually and treated 1,085 clinic patients on a weekly basis.
Now, Biyombo will help build a new hospital in the Congo through this same Foundation while helping the community with the other services and opportunities the Foundation provides.
Biyombo’s Decision to Donate his Full Salary
After his father contracted and later recovered from COVID-19, he developed health complications requiring hospitalization. Biyombo took care of his father and even transported him to a hospital in Turkey where he later passed away.
His father was his “first believer” and always supported him and helped him follow his dreams. So, when his father, Francis, passed away, Biyombo decided that he would only return to basketball, after his brief hiatus, if he could dedicate this season to his dad. After some discussion with his agent, he decided to honor his father in two ways: by wearing the number 18 on his jersey, representing his father’s birth date of June 18, 1960; and by donating this season’s salary to fund a hospital in the Congo that would be named after his dad, which would “give the people better conditions.”
NBA star Bismack Biyombo also wanted to “gift [his father]something that would service people under his name” that his father could appreciate “from the other side.” And this hospital was the best way to continue both his own and his father’s legacy of helping others. After all, as Biyombo himself says, it is the right thing to do to “reach out” to help others. Biyombo hopes to save as many lives as possible through the hospital, but even if the hospital saves just one life, Biyombo feels the Foundation will have done its part. Biyombo strives to continue doing his part by using his salary to fund this new hospital and to provide help and opportunities through his Foundation.
– Marcela Agreda L.