Growing up in the Congo, I didn’t even see my first basketball game until I was 12. I started playing but it was hard, because we had little equipment, facilities or coaching. But I began to play some semi pro games and get noticed. I soon wanted to play pro ball as a career, I was so in love with the game. But my parents weren’t having any of it. They wanted me to stay in school and go into the family business. To play it safe.
So I made a promise to my parents -- that I would succeed as a pro in one year, or return home and never talk about playing pro basketball again. And with that promise, and a challenge to myself, I set out to begin my career.
My first pro offer was playing in Yemen, in the Middle East. I was raw as a player, but I did whatever I could to help my team. One day I was approached by Coach Mario Palma who saw promise in my game. Coach Palma helped me land a spot on a pro team in Spain, and I am forever grateful. Spain was a big step forward. I played with CB Illescas, then moved to Fuenlabrada. With my new team Fuenlabrada, we almost beat Real Madrid, one of the best teams in Europe. My game was starting to be watched by American basketball scouts, including those working with the Nike Hoops Summit and NBA. I was drafted seventh overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2011 NBA draft, but I was immediately traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in a draft night trade. I felt so blessed to come so far, but I was still a teenager and needed to learn. Adjusting to the NBA was a process, but a very rewarding one, especially if Michael Jordan is your boss. After Charlotte, I was fortunate enough to play for the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, and then back to Charlotte, and now with the Phoenix Suns. I continue to meet amazing people and improve my game every step of the way.
2011 - 2015
June 2011: Drafted seventh overall by the Sacramento Kings in the 2011 NBA Draft. Rights were traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in a draft night trade. In December, he signed a multi-year deal with the Bobcats. Averaged 4.4 points, 1.5 blocks, and 6.1 rebounds per game in 284 games with the Bobcats.
Highlights: Youngest player in the NBA during 2011-12 season. Developed defensive game in 2012, averaging 7.3 rebounds per game and averaged 5 points per game in his first two seasons. In 2013, he posted three double-doubles in five games, and had double digit rebounds in four of those games. On April 13, 2013, versus the Milwaukee Bucks, he had 13 points and 17 rebounds.
2015 - 2016
July 2015: Signed a two-year contract with the Toronto Raptors. Averaged 5.5 points, 1.6 blocks, and 8.0 rebounds per game in 82 games with the Raptors.
Highlights: Helped the Raptors advance to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history, averaging 6.2 points, 1.4 blocks, and 9.4 rebounds per game during the playoffs. In Game 3 of the conference finals, he set a Toronto playoff record with 26 rebounds.
2016 - 2018
July 2016: Signed a four-year contract with the Orlando Magic. Averaged 5.8 points, 1.1 blocks, and 6.4 rebounds per game in 163 games with the Magic.
Highlights: Scored 15 points in games against the Denver Nuggets on January 16, 2017, and against the Dallas Mavericks on February 11, 2017. Had 15 rebounds against the Washington Wizards on March 5, 2017. On January 12, 2018, he recorded a career-high 21 points against the Wizards. Scored 12 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high 5 assists against the Mavericks on April 4, 2017.
2018 - 2021
July 2018: Traded back to Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats) in a three-team deal. Re-signed with the hornets in November 2020. Averaged 5.6 points, 0.9 blocks, and 5.2 rebounds per game in 173 games with the Hornets.
Highlights: Scored 19 points, 9 rebounds, and two blocks against the Detroit Pistons on November 27, 2019. Logged a season-high 17 rebounds on December 16, 2019 against the Indiana Pacers. On April 13, 2021, he recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers.
January 2022: Signed a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns, and after a strong performance was signed for the rest of the season. Averaged 5.8 points, 1.3 blocks, and 6.1 rebounds per game in 36 games with the Suns.
Highlights: Had 17 points and 14 rebounds on January 17, 2022 against the San Antonio Spurs. Recorded 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists coming off the bench on January 22 against the Indiana Pacers.