NBL1: London Elite's Walid Mumuni still in love with the process 20 years on

When people think of longevity in basketball, a soon-to-be 39-year-old LeBron James immediately springs to mind.

However, 40-year-old Walid Mumuni keeps the flag flying as an ironman in the British basketball community.

A key figure for London Elite this season, Mumuni has spent a whopping 21 years playing at a high level and is happy to lend a hand to a side playing its first season in NBL1.

"There is so much potential for this club, and it's only been three years," Mumuni said.

"We've climbed up the divisions here, and we still have a lot of growth that needs to be done, a lot of work, but we have video sessions, competitive training sessions, good scouting, we approach games the right way, and this is why I'm still going.

"I'm still excited for every practice and every game because of what's in place here, and the guys I'm playing share that passion, too. I'm still in love with the process."

Mumuni is enjoying life with London Elite (Luke Simcock)

Of course, Mumuni isn't the only veteran of 20-plus seasons playing in NBL1, as earlier in December, London Elite travelled to City of Birmingham Rockets, where 38-year-old Sam Toluwase has now entered his second decade of senior men's basketball.

"He's an anomaly," Mumuni joked when speaking of Toluwase.

"The last time he did a test on his body, he had the body of a 26-year-old. He's found the secret fountain of youth, and he isn't sharing it.

"But being serious, he's an example of being disciplined with your diet, with prep, and he's incredible with how he approaches the game and is a testament to someone who looks after their body."

Where it all began

It was 2002 when Mumuni – then a teenager – began his senior career at London United, a team stacked with veterans that constantly finished in the top five of the NBL1 standings.

But back then, the NBL was a league for veterans and players in their early twenties, with teenagers often tagging along on the end of the bench or merely making up the numbers during training sessions.

Led by coach Jack Majewski, Mumuni, along with team-mate and life-long friend Steve Vear, broke that mould with the play-caller putting his faith in the two to play meaningful minutes and start.

"The blessing that Steve and myself had was that Jack gave us an opportunity as young guys because back then, it wasn't like it is now," Mumuni reflects.

"It was a grown man's league, and if you were young, it didn't matter if you were ready; you were always told to wait your turn, and Jack threw us right in the mix, so we got exposure early on to play senior men's basketball, and we took full advantage.

"We were blessed, and as each season progressed, we grew, but what was cool was we had mentors, veterans of the game like Pete Deppisch, Junior Williams who were always in our corner and helped us."

Mumuni (front row, third left) celebrates with the undefeated 2008/09 Reading team (Mike Arnfield)

Vear, one of the premier point guards of the early 2000s, went on to have a stellar career, playing for the Worthing Thunder, Reading Rockets and British Basketball League outfit Leicester Riders, before retiring in 2013 with NBL2 side Newham Neptunes.

But while Vear has gone on to build the Luol Deng Foundation and play a part with the South Sudan national team, Mumuni has continued to lace the sneakers and step out onto the court.

He was part of the Reading Rockets' unbeaten campaign of 2008/09, followed by hopping in and out of Italy and the British Basketball League, before settling in NBL1 with the Hemel Storm.

For seven seasons – with a gap year at Thames Valley – Mumuni called Hemel home.

"It was never difficult and always a joy suiting up for Hemel," Mumuni explained.

"Season after season, it was amazing because the fans supported us, home and away, even when we were at our worst; the Hemel fans turned out, the volunteers, and the whole community were with us, and they supported us.

"The coaches such as Dave Titmuss, Jon Burnell and Dru Spinks made me want to stay there, and when I came back to London, Hemel did something I thought would have only been done with Reading when I was there, and that was win every game and win every trophy.

"I must admit, I was so happy for Dru and I was so happy for Hemel when they finished last season unbeaten. They really deserved all the praise because of what kind of team and community they are. My time there was unforgettable."

One of British basketball's good guys, Mumuni, plans to help build a young, fast-growing London Elite to succeed in the latest chapter of a storied career.  


Main image credit - Ivan Grotsev

Words by John Hobbs