Mavs From the Past: D.J. Mbenga


The name D.J. Mbenga is a name that not many may remember. The Belgian-Congolese basketball player sustained a career in the league for over half a decade, even though his talents on the floor weren’t as eye-catching as his fellow NBA players. He still managed to achieve something many people and even fellow NBA players dream of, he won two NBA championships.

Early Life

Mbenga was born and raised in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. His father worked as a government employee, but when a new regime took over, Mbenga and his mother were forced to seek asylum in Belgium. That is where he was discovered by former professional Belgian basketball player Willy Steveniers. Steveniers became Mbenga’s basketball mentor.

Playing Overseas

In 2001, he made his professional basketball debut when he signed with Spirou Gilly, a team in the Belgian Division II league. He played a season with Gilly.

The following season he signed with the Leuven Bears of the Belgian Basketball League.

In the 2003-04 season, he signed with the Spirou Charleroi, another Belgian Basketball League team. He also played in some Eurocup games. In his one season with the team, he averaged 6.6 points per game (PPG), 4.1 rebounds per game (RPG), and 0.4 assists per game (APG) while playing in 30 games throughout the season. In his 12 Eurocup games, he put up 5.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.9 steals per game (SPG), and 1.4 blocks per game (BPG).

Welcome to the NBA

Mbenga signed with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2004 offseason and joined them for Summer League. His first season in Dallas was filled with injuries and he only managed to play in 15 games throughout the whole season. In the limited games, he did appear in, he averaged 1.0 PPG, 0.5 APG, and 0.3 BPG while getting the opportunity to start in one. The Mavericks as a team had a great season, going 58-24 and clinching the fourth seed in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, they took down the Houston Rockets in seven games. In the following round, the Mavericks were eliminated in six games by the Phoenix Suns. Mbenga was not able to participate in the playoffs due to his injuries.

He re-joined the Mavs in the 2005 Summer League and had a slightly better season with the team. In his second year with the Mavericks, Mbenga averaged 1.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.6 BPG while starting in one of his 43 games played with the team that season. The Mavericks had their best year in franchise history up to that point. The team finished the season  60-22 and again clinched the fourth seed in the West. Dallas swept the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs then took down their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in seven games. In the Western Conference Finals, the Mavericks defeated the Suns in six games to advance to their first NBA Finals. The Mavericks faced off against the Miami Heat in the Finals. Unfortunately for Dallas, their playoff success came to an end when they lost the series in six games. Mbenga averaged 0.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG, and 0.1 BPG in the playoffs while taking part in seven of the games. During the Western Conference Finals, he was suspended six games for going into the stands after seeing fans harassing coach Avery Johnson’s wife.

Mbenga again played for the Mavs Summer League team and re-signed with the team for three years. Unfortunately for Mbenga he couldn’t escape the injury bug and suffered a torn ACL in February 2007, which ended his season. Mbenga came off the bench in all 21 games he was able to appear in before suffering his season-ending ACL injury. He managed to put up 0.8 PPG,0.5 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.2 BPG in his 21 appearances. The Mavericks had their best finish to a season with an astounding 67-15 record and finished first in the West. In the first round of the playoffs, the Mavs made history but not for a good reason, they became the first No. 1 seed to lose a seven-game series to an eighth seed, the Golden State Warriors. Mbenga again did not participate in the playoffs due to his season-ending injury.

He made his return in the Mavericks’ final preseason game before the start of the 2007-08 season. A week later, however, Dallas waived him from the team.

Journey Around the League

Three weeks later Mbenga signed with the Warriors. His stay in Golden State wasn’t long, lasting less than two months. In his short time with the Warriors, he averaged 1.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.2 SPG, and 0.6 BPG while coming off the bench in his 16 games played with the team. He was waived by the Warriors in early January 2008.

Two weeks after getting waived by the Warriors, Mbenga signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed another 10-day contract with the team before staying with the Lakers for the rest of the season. Mbenga spent two and a half years with the Lakers, starting in two of his 98 games with the team. Mbenga put up 2.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.2 SPG, and 0.7 BPG in his tenure with Los Angeles. He was awarded for his assistance off the bench when the Lakers became back-to-back champions in 2009 and 2010, earning Mbenga two rings. The team made the finals for three straight years from 2008 to 2010. Mbenga managed to put up 1.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.2 BPG while playing very limited minutes in his 17 playoff appearances with the team.

During the 2010 offseason, he signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Hornets. Mbenga came off the bench in all of his 41 games with the Hornets. In his single season with the team, he put up 1.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. The Hornets made the playoffs but were knocked out in the first round by the Lakers. Mbenga averaged 1.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.4 SPG, and 0.6 BPG in his five playoff games with New Orleans.

He played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2012 Summer League. He re-signed with the Mavericks later in the offseason but was waived by the team before the season began.

Final Years of His Career

In November 2012, he signed with the Qingdao Eagles of the Chinese Basketball League. He played on the team for a month. 

In April 2013, Mbenga signed with Barako Bull Energy of the Philippine Basketball Association. Barako was the final team Mbenga played for in his basketball career.

He signed a contract with the Knicks before the 2014-15 season but was waived by the team before the beginning of the season. Mbenga retired shortly after.

Mbenga’s time in Dallas was filled with injuries and learning experiences. He grasped the NBA style of play as part of the Mavericks and adapted to being a role player that could assist his team off the bench in any way possible. He got his first taste of the NBA Finals with the Mavericks and it became a preview of what he and the Lakers were going to achieve a few years later. In Mbenga’s three years on the Mavs, he averaged 1.3 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 0.1 APG, 0.1 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. Mbenga’s injuries hindered his Dallas tenure, which prevented him from reaching his full potential.

Personal Life

Mbenga lives in Dallas.

Mbenga can speak English, Lingala, Tshiluba, French, and Portuguese.

He started his own charity in 2005, the Mbenga Foundation, which helps children in the Democratic Republic of Congo and refugees in Belgium.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit his home country, he tried to assist in any way possible by sending masks along with any other forms of protection possible.


Mbenga’s basketball career spanned over a decade, splitting time between the NBA and overseas. Even though his full potential was never reached due to injuries, he still achieved what many basketball players try to chase their whole career, winning an NBA championship. Not only did Mbenga win one ring, but he was able to win two in back-to-back years, an even bigger achievement. Mbenga played his part in two NBA title wins and in NBA history.

Categories: Mavs Fans For Life, Mavs From the Past

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