"I believe in prenuptials," says Mutombo, not pleased to discuss this incident at all. "I see so many people here from broken homes. I judge myself by the society I live in, and I see the things that happen. The only way you can see your house is to go outside and look at it. My brother Tshitenge is an artist at Southeastern Missouri University. He doesn't sit next to his canvas. He will put it 30 feet away and observe it for an hour."
"The press tried to portray me wrong, insult me. They said I wanted three wives. Why would I want three wives in the United States?" On the subject of child custody, he says, "I believe that any child needs a man nearby. It doesn't have to be the father. But an uncle, a grandfather. A man's voice is different."
A woman with a camera approaches and asks if she can take a photo of Mutombo's shoes. He says she can take all the pictures she wants of his shoes in the Nuggets' apparel store down the walk. "She didn't even want my face," he says after she has left. He is hurt. "This country...."
In a cookie store he buys a half-dozen cookies, signs a few autographs and chats with a pregnant woman, telling her, "They have nice baby Nugget uniforms down there."
In the parking garage Mutombo ducks rhythmically for the cement girders that threaten his head. A small Asian man looks up at him.
"Can you fit in your car?" the man asks Mutombo.
"Can you fit in your car?" Mutombo replies.
The tall man from Africa drives off slowly, leaving the mall, this most American of structures, behind. In the resulting void he leaves the interviewer with a pair of vibrant images. The first is a group portrait of Mutombo and 65 three-year-olds in a Soweto classroom, his hands touching some of their heads like leaves touching acorns, everyone singing an African nursery rhyme.
The second image is of Mutombo performing in a play called La Ville with his college French drama club, Les Battleurs. To perform in the play, which the Georgetown students put on for nearly a month at the French embassy, Mutombo had to scurry out of basketball practice at seven, shower, get a lift to the embassy, get into costume and have his makeup applied before the curtain rose at 7:30. In the drama he played "someone who came to save the people of the town. I was like an angel."