Holidays are about spending time with family for most people. For those people who are fortunate enough to still have family or close friends in their life, it is a glorious time to enjoy the simplest of things, such as sitting around a TV and watching basketball or football. For Bismack Biyombo, this holiday season was about as special as it gets.
You see, Biyombo is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He left in 2008 to fulfill a childhood dream of playing basketball and had not spent Christmas with all six of his siblings, brothers Billy, Biska and Bikim and sisters Bimeline, Bikeline and Bimela, since that year.
Per the Orlando Sentinal:
“I think it’s going to be so special,” said Biska, a 21-year-old soccer player who graduated from Montverde Academy and now attends Trinidad State Junior College in southern Colorado.
Bismack Biyombo’s journey to the NBA is a tale of perseverance — he grew up poor and walked up to an hour each day to attend school — but his story also revolves around family.
His parents gave him the freedom to leave his home country to build a new life for himself, and now Biyombo is giving his brothers and sisters the same opportunity. All six of his siblings attend boarding schools or colleges in the United States. Not only does Biyombo pay their tuition and their room-and-board, but he also serves as their surrogate father. They rely on him whenever they need advice, help or an emotional support. Even when he’s on the road playing for the Magic, he’s always just a text message or a phone call away, ready to assist whenever he’s needed.
“He’s just a great brother,” said Bimeline, who is 18 and is interested in becoming a nurse. “He’s just so great in everything. I don’t know how to thank him, but I’m blessed to have him in my life. I love him so much.”
Bismack is 25 years old — the oldest of François and Françoise Biyombo’s seven children. Years ago, when Bismack’s parents were away from their home working, they would put Bismack in charge.
Now, about a decade since he last baby-sat his siblings back home, Bismack feels a greater responsibility. He doesn’t have kids of his own, but he regards himself as a second dad to Billy, Biska, Bikim, Bimeline, Bikeline and Bimela.
“To me, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Bismack said. “Every time I go to bed, I feel fulfilled. It’s great. Quite frankly, it’s a great feeling to work with. You see the little sisters growing up. You see the little brother becoming a man. It’s great.”
Bismack has seen his siblings come to the States to make their lives better as well, and he has turned into a surrogate father to the group. His six brothers and sisters have all come over to start school at some stage, his three brothers while he was playing with the Charlotte Bobcats, and his three sisters last year, and Bismack doesn’t hesitate to help them out with tuition. He can afford it after the Orlando Magic gave him a four year, $68 million contract. He learned well from his father in this regard, who put his own siblings through school after Bismack’s grandfather passed away.
From the Orlando Sentinal:
“My mom and my dad have given me a lot of responsibility but also a lot of trust,” Bismack said. “My only concern is to make the right decision not only for them but the right decision for the next person. That’s where it becomes a little bit tricky for me. But at the end of the day, I think I’ve done just fine.”
“I think it goes from generation to generation,” Billy said. “Seeing our dad as a role model had an impact on Bismack’s career as well as [on] him outside of the court. Taking care of us, it pretty much goes back to what my dad did for his brothers and sisters. I think that situation had a lot of impact on Bismack as a person.”
François and Françoise Biyombo still live in the same home where they raised their seven children. Bismack has offered to buy them a house, but his parents politely declined.
As a child, Bismack always has had at least one obvious gift, aside from his height and his tenacity on the basketball court: the gift of focus. Growing up in Lubumbashi, a mining city of about 2 million people, he seemed to have an uncommon level of determination. When he was 16, he was offered a basketball contract in Qatar. But he and friends were detained in a neighboring country because he lacked the necessary documentation. Biyombo eventually ended up in Yemen, and he ultimately was discovered by an influential coach. Beginning in 2009, he played two seasons professionally in Spain.
Biyombo helps other people outside of his family, too. Working through his non-profit foundation, which his parents run, he’s paid the U.S. tuitions for children who grew up in his home country. He also helps fund the construction of schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the first school, based in the city of Goma, opened this past September. Other schools are being built.
Caring for his brothers and sisters in recent years has taught him patience and how to become a more thoughtful communicator.
“I have a lot of responsibility, and I had to grow [up] fast, because I have to have conversations with them that parents should be having,” he said. “So it’s great for me because when you see the team environment, you get to sit back sometimes and you’ve just got to be quiet and listen.
“You have to do the same with [my brothers and sisters]. You have to listen to them before you actually help them. So they really have helped me control how I do it with the team: when to speak, when not to speak, when to really pay attention to what they’re saying. At the end of the day, if I don’t pay attention to what [my siblings are] saying, if I say something that’s real stupid, then it’s going to be hard for them to communicate with me.”
This is a rags to riches story everyone can appreciate.