Didier Ilunga-Mbenga was born and raised in Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His father was a government employee, but after the government was overthrown, Mbenga's father, and DJ himself, were imprisoned. His father managed to negotiate DJ's release, and DJ fled the country by plane to Belgium, where he received asylum. His father was executed. While living in a refugee center, Mbenga was discovered by Belgian basketball legend Willy Steveniers, who saw potential in Mbenga and coached him. He was discovered by the Dallas Mavericks, who signed him during the 2004-05 season.
After spending time with the Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, Mbenga signed with the Lakers on Jan. 21, 2008. He played very little, but quickly became a fan favorite and was a member of the two Lakers title teams.
Mbenga signed with New Orleans after the 2009-10 season.