Dikembe Mutombo is seen in a 2012 file photo. Wikimedia Commons

While the NBA and China are dealing with the reality of a rocky, complicated relationship, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning visited Gansu, China, to take part in early Chinese New Year activities over the weekend.

As a global ambassador for the NBA, Mutombo is in his element, meeting and greeting fans. He smiles, offers words of encouragement and projects a down-to-earth personality that has endeared him to hundreds of millions of fans.

Yao Ming, one of Mutombo’s former Houston Rockets teammates, said in a 2010 interview that off-the-court activities in the Houston community gave him a sense of purpose.

“When I was in Houston, I took part in some charity activities with the team, and that made a deep impression on me. These activities gave me a sense of satisfaction,” Yaao told China Daily.

“That’s why I want to do something for my country, for children in China’s rural areas who really need help.”

After an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan caused massive damage to buildings and infrastructure and resulted in the loss of nearly 70,000 people in May 2008 in Sichuan province, the Yao Ming Foundation played a pivotal role to raise funds to build new schools throughout the region. The foundation also established schools in Gansu, a landlocked, rural northwest province.

More than a decade later, Dikembe Mutombo visited Gansu.

It’s too early to know if Mutomobo’s trip to Gansu can help unravel the complicated mess that began with Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s now-infamous (and deleted) tweet expressing support for Hong Kong democracy supporters.

But Mutombo has a warm personality and global recognition for his philanthropic endeavors, including building hospitals in Africa.

It’s the view here that the visit by Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning to China is a win-win situation for the NBA and China. After all, this wonderful game connects people and builds and sustains relationships.