WITH HELP FROM MUTUMBO, ZAIRE ABLE TO TAKE FIRST STEPS.Byline: David Teel Newport News Newport News, independent city (1990 pop. 170,045), SE Va., on the Virginia peninsula, at the mouth of the James River, off Hampton Roads, near Norfolk; inc. 1896. Daily Press
Zaire's largest basketball facility seats approximately 4,000 and does not have a roof. The national women's team often must play in ratty rat·ty
adj. rat·ti·er, rat·ti·est
1. Of or characteristic of rats.
2. Infested with rats.
3. Dilapidated; shabby. uniforms and 2-year-old sneakers sneakers
US, Canad, Austral & NZ canvas shoes with rubber soles
sneakers npl (US) → zapatos mpl de lona; zapatillas fpl .
Imagine, then, the athletes' wonder Thursday when they put on new uniforms, warmups and shoes and ran into an Olympic arena bursting with 31,230, the largest crowd ever to witness the sport anywhere in the world.
There was Kongola Amba, a 23-year-old Institute of Barumba student who began playing basketball only four years ago. There was Kasala Kamanga, 35, a women's basketball Women's basketball is one of the few games which developed in tandem with men's. It became popular, spreading from the east coast of the United States to the west coast, in large part via women's colleges. pioneer in Zaire, and Mabika Mwadi, a future doctor.
They and their teammates had no chance in a 107-47 loss to the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. at the Georgia Dome Atlanta Falcons
• • [ , but at least one native of Zaire was flush with pride.
``Just to see them play before 31,000 people and see my flag being waved,'' Dikembe Mutumbo said. ``It was great.''
Mutumbo, a center for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, is responsible for Zaire's Olympic fashion statement, right down to the matching black-and-white shower shoes.
``You guys didn't see the uniforms they had at practice the first day,'' Mutumbo said. ``You wouldn't believe it. Their shoes were 2 years old. I said no. In the NBA NBA
1. National Basketball Association
2. National Boxing Association
NBA (US) n abbr (= National Basketball Association) → Basketball-Dachverband (= I change about 120 pair a year. I went downtown and got them shoes the following day. I told them to burn everything they brought with them.''
Mutumbo was merely keeping a promise he made last summer to Zaire coach Mongamaluku Mozingo. Make the Olympics, Mutumbo told his coach from his youth, and I will take care of you.
``He promised to pay for our air fare,'' Mozingo said. ``It was he who requested the government to support our efforts.''
Sure enough, Zaire won the African zone competition and qualified for its first Olympics. So proud is the country that one journalist used a cell phone Thursday to relay play-by-play back home. At the game's conclusion, Mutumbo took the phone and talked to the folks in Zaire, and then he went to the locker room.
``I wanted to let them know I still love them and I'm still supporting them,'' Mutumbo said. ``Some of the girls had their heads down heads down - [Sun] Concentrating, usually so heavily and for so long that everything outside the focus area is missed. See also hack mode and larval stage, although this mode is hardly confined to fledgling hackers. . I told them, `Enjoy yourself. Be happy for making the Olympics. Don't be sad if you don't win the gold or win the game.''
Zaire is 0-3 in pool play and will not win a medal. But the nation's, and Mutumbo's, involvement in women's basketball speaks further of the game's blossoming popularity, as does the size of Thursday's crowd.
``I think it's unfortunate we still have to break these kinds of barriers, but I'm glad to be experiencing it,'' U.S. center Lisa Leslie
Even little girls in Zaire, where Mutumbo organizes and finances tournaments for youth of both genders.
``What I spend is just a little piece of cake,'' said Mutumbo, who recently signed a contract with the Hawks worth more than $10 million a year. ``Being rich and making the money I make, I need to give some back. . . . These are my home girls. There are a couple of them I grew up with and went to school with.''
Photo: Dikembe Mutumbo contributed uniforms and shoes to th e Zaire women's basketball team.