Former Nugget Dikembe Mutombo shares his first voting experience

Dikembe Mutombo during his days with the Denver Nuggets.

At age 42, former Denver Nuggets star Dikembe Mutombo is ancient by NBA standards, but he hasn't given up on the sport to which he's devoted his entire adult life; although he's not currently on the active roster of his most recent team, the Houston Rockets, he hopes to wind up there by season's end. In the meantime, though, he's glorying in his first opportunity to vote since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2006 -- and last night, he shared his experience with the viewers of CNN curmudgeon Lou Dobbs.

The video of Mutombo's comments isn't posted yet, but the transcript is -- and aside from misspelling his last name as "Muttombo" (and making other botches, too), the text captures his excitement over this act of civic responsibility, despite having to wait in line more than two hours to exercise his right. "I'm so happy," he said. "I'm glad to be an American."

Read the Mutombo segment below. -- Michael Roberts

DOBBS: Well, millions of first-time voters are going to the polls and an extraordinary number of them [are] voting for Barack Obama, of course. About 70 percent of those first-time voters. And that includes naturalized citizens who have the privilege of voting for the first time.

Eight-time NBA all-star Dikembe Muttombo yesterday voted for the first time in his life. Muttombo became a naturalized American citizen in 2006. He was born in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire. Muttombo played basketball for Georgetown University, of course, and in the NBA, most recently for the Houston Rockets.

Deke, as his teammates call him, talked to us about how it felt to vote for a presidential candidate, a candidate with whom he shares African roots, and his experience voting for the very first time as an American in this historic election.


DIKEMBE MUTTOMBO, FIRST TIME VOTER: I came to this country for -- almost 22 years ago and went to school here. And after playing the game almost for 18 years. And I'm feeling very good that I went to the booth to vote. And I was very happy for the fact that I'm the first to vote in my family, in the Muttombo family, so we're so happy.

It's like we're [opening] the door. I've been from Congo when I was growing up on the (INAUDIBLE) regime. There was no chance and opportunity for nobody to ever have an election or to participate in any sort of the election. I tell you the truth. This is the first time I ever voted in my life, you know, and never [has] a chance been given to me in my lifetime. Senator Obama, his father was from Africa. The son of another immigrant get a chance and opportunity to be appointed by the American people (INAUDIBLE). It's amazing.

OBAMA: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible...


MUTTOMBO: I would say to my children that don't think that because daddy (INAUDIBLE) Congo that you can one day become and you are the president of the United States of America (INAUDIBLE) senator. I'm so happy. I'm glad to be an American.


DOBBS: Muttombo said he was in line for two-and-a-half hours to cast his first ballot. He hopes to return to the court this season and finish his career with the Houston Rockets before retiring from the NBA. Quite a day for millions of Americans.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts