I met Dikembe Mutumbo in person once, not an easy thing for a life long Alaskan to have happen. We had a brief conversation together at our hotel in 1994 when he was with the Denver Nuggets, just after the 8th seeded Nuggets upset the 1st seeded Seattle Sonics in the first round. NBA.com lists that series as one of the greatest moments in the history of the NBA Playoffs, although I’m sure many fans in the Pacific Northwest would beg to differ.
Now both Mutumbo and the Sonics appear to be gone from the NBA.
I would tell you what we talked about, but not only do not remember that much of it, but at the time I had a very hard time understanding him through is raspy voice and thick accent, and thought it was too impolite of me to keep asking him to repeat himself so I faked it the best I could.
Ironic, isn’t it? That the NBA’s greatest memory of Mutumbo might always be him crying for joy on the floor of the Kingdome, holding the ball above him, and his last play in the NBA resulted in him lying in pain on the floor of the NBA stadium closest to Seattle.
It is also ironic that Mutumbo, who at age 42 has played a remarkably injury free career in the NBA, suffered his career ending injury whilst tangled with the oft-injured rookie, Greg Odon.
It was unnerving to see the big guy wheeled off the floor like that; I always pictured Mutumbo going out wagging his finger.
Hopefully Mutumbo will be a hall of famer someday, with his list of impressive basketball accolades:
__ 8-time NBA All-Star (92, 95, 96, 97, 98, 00, 01, 02)
__ 4-time winner of the defensive player of the year (94-95, 95-96, 96-97, 00-01)
__ 2nd on the NBA’s career blocks list with 3,289 blocks
__ 4-time leader in Rebounds (94-95, 96-97, 98-99, 99-00)
__ 5-time leader in Blocked Shots (93-98)
__ 2nd team All-NBA (01-02)
__ 3rd team All-NBA (97-98, 01-02)
__ 1st team NBA All-Rookie (91-92)
__ 1st team NBA All-Defensive (96-97, 97-98, 00-01)
__ 2nd team NBA All-Defensive (94-95, 98-99, 01-02)
Mutombo is known around the world for his humanitarian work, particularly through the Dikembe Mutumbo Foundation founded in 1997 to benefit the people of his homeland of Kinshasha in the Congo. In 2007, he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center there, named after his mother.
There are been a lot of players who have come from tough circumstances who did well in the NBA. Many of them get caught up in living “the life.” Many of them never become more than spoiled, rich, thugs and punks who only lift a finger to help others if there are cameras present.
We may never know the depth and breadth of the good Mutumbo has done off the court.
Truly, one of the games most noble statesman has fallen, and he will be missed, wagging finger and all.