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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight

Hope They're Better Than Movie

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

July 29, 1996|MARK HEISLER

A few years ago, then-Golden State Coach Don Nelson went to Africa to see if he could unearth unknown basketball players, a real-life version of the movie, "The Air Up There."

He didn't find any.

Dikembe Mutombo, a native of Zaire, says they're there all right, even if they're shy.

"There's a lot of tall guys," says Mutombo, who has outfitted the Zaire woman's team here. "I got an opportunity to meet with a few of them, but some guys, I don't know what is holding them to just stay home. They just don't want to go far away from their family and loved ones.

"There was a kid who was almost taller than me and was 19 years old. And I told him, I would like to see your papers [grades] from school and take you back to America with me.'

"And he was like, 'Oh, I'm gonna bring it tomorrow.' I end up on the plane, I never see the kid.

"As I keep going back to Africa every summer, hopefully I can encourage some of the young guys who want to develop their skills and hopefully, one day we'll see more African kids in the NBA."

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