Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We Will Miss Not Having Dikembe Mutombo Around Anymore

Early in the Houston Rockets' Game 2 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, backup center Dikembe Mutombo suffered what will most likely be a career-ending injury when his knee bent in a way that knees aren't supposed to.

Mutombo's numbers won't get him in the Hall Of Fame. He was magical in his first few seasons, solid in the middle of his 18-year career, and held the role of mentor over the last third of it. Most guys like that won't hang on for an extra three or four years because their career averages tumble. Mutombo wanted to play; to contribute. And he did so is many, many ways.

He was an outstanding shot blocker who brought us the finger-wave. To this day, I'll bust out the finger wave whenever I block somebody from trying to shoot a balled up piece of paper into a trash dumpster. When Mutombo came out of Georgetown, I pulled for the Charlotte Hornets to use the No. 1 pick on him. Was he the best player in that draft? No, but he's the only one that has been still playing the past few years.

The funny thing is that Mutombo's finest scoring season was his first. Many people felt he was a project on the offensive end but could contribute immediately on defense (the same rap Hasheem Thabeet has right now). He averaged 16.6 ppg in his rookie year and didn't get close to that for the rest of his career.

Those first years with the Nuggets are best remembered for their amazing upset of the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics. The image burned in most people's minds is Mutombo laying on the floor with the ball, screaming with glee.

Whether he was in Denver, Atlanta, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York or Houston, he was a defensive force when he played, a positive member of the team and was in the playoffs for 14 of his 18 seasons. He also got to the NBA Finals with the Sixers and Nets.

He won four Defensive MVP awards. He was voted to 8 All-Star games. He ranks second in blocks in NBA history. He won two rebounding titles.

None of that will be his lasting legacy. None of it. He continues to go back to Africa and help with aid for the continent. His biggest contribution to the world is his humanitarian effort for Africa and his home country of Congo. He has raised money for a $29 million hospital in his home country. He has won the President's Service Award and was mentioned in George W. Bush's State of the Union address for his efforts.

He should be a Hall Of Famer for his entire body of work. He's been a very good player for most of his career and was still contributing in his last few years. The fact that he is an international guy should help him get in.

Thanks for everything Mr. Mutombo.

No comments: