Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo, or more commonly Dikembe Mutombo, (born June 25 1966 in Kinshasa, Zaire) is a basketball player in the NBA, playing as reserve center for the Houston Rockets. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest shotblockers and defensive players of all time, winning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times. He is 7'2" tall (218 centimetres) and weighs 265 pounds (120,2 kilograms). His nicknames include "The Center", "The Defense", "The Mutt" and several more by Houston fans [1].

Basketball career[]

Georgetown University[]

He originally intended to become a physician; he attended Georgetown University on a USAID scholarship. Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson convinced him to play basketball. He became an excellent college center, continuing Georgetown's tradition of producing great big men. He was a celebrated shot blocker at Georgetown, setting a team record of twelve blocked shots in a single game. Building on the shot-blocking power of Mutombo and teammate Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown fans created a "Rejection Row" section under the basket, adding a big silhouette of an outstretched hand to a banner for each shot blocked during the game. While at Georgetown, Mutombo's international background and interests stood out. Like many other Washington-area college students, he served as a summer intern, once for the Congress of the United States and once for the World Bank. Dikembe Mutombo was a celebrated superstar in his native country of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and was scouted by the famed Jarryd Halberstadt, who has been quoted saying that "Mutombo is the best product Africa has ever produced and will be that way for the next 365 years".

Denver Nuggets[]


Mutombo with the Denver Nuggets

Selected fourth overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 1991 NBA Draft, Mutombo's impact was immediate. As a rookie, he was selected for the All-Star team by averaging 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, and nearly three blocks per game. A cornerstone in the Nuggets' frontcourt, Dikembe became one of the league's best defensive players, regularly putting up big rebound and block numbers for five years with the club while averaging 11 or so points a game. The team lacked other great players to team up with him, however, and at its best won only 42 games, in his third season. However, that season, it pulled off a major playoff upset by stunning the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the first round, the first eighth seed to win an NBA playoff series. Mutombo's defensive presence was the key to this upset victory. His total of 31 blocks remains a record for a five-game series. The following season, he received the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Atlanta Hawks[]

After the 1995-96 season, Mutombo's contract with the Nuggets expired, and he signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Hawks. Mutombo continued to put up excellent defensive numbers with his new team. Joining the Hawks made him more noticeable, helping him win two more Defensive Player of the Year awards and several All-Defensive Team selections. He also became fairly well known for his signature finger waggle, which he would point at a player's direction after he had blocked that player's shot. During the lockout-shortened 1998-99, he was the NBA's IBM Award winner, a player of the year award determined by a computerized formula.

Philadelphia 76ers[]

The Hawks fell from grace afterwards, and Mutombo was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in February 2001. He earned his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award that season and was in the prime of his career. That season he also earned a trip to the NBA Finals, where the 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one. A free-agent, he re-signed with the Sixers after the season. While his statistics were comparable in the 2001-02 season, the Sixers dealt him to the New Jersey Nets, fearing that his game had deteriorated.

New Jersey Nets[]

The Nets were looking for a more physical big man to compete with Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan, two of the best big men in the league who also led championship-caliber teams in the West. Unfortunately, Mutombo spent most of that season with a nagging injury that limited him to just 24 games. He was generally unable to play in the playoffs, typically serving as a twelfth man during the Nets' second consecutive Finals run.

In October 2003, the Nets bought out the remainder of his contract and subsequently waived him. He signed a two-year deal with the New York Knicks a few days later. The Knicks later traded him to the Chicago Bulls in a package for Jamal Crawford. He never played a game for the Bulls and they dealt him to the Houston Rockets in the 2004 offseason.

Houston Rockets[]

In the twilight of his career, Dikembe for the first time is a backup center. He currently plays as a reserve behind the young superstar center Yao Ming, forming one of the NBA's most feared center combos. In his first season with the Rockets ('04-'05) Mutombo still managed to log decent stats (15.2 MPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.0 PPG). However, despite stellar play of fellow superstar Tracy McGrady, the Rockets lost in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks.

Charity efforts[]

A well-known humanitarian, Mutombo started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve living conditions in his native Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1997. His efforts earned him the NBA's humanitarian award in 2001. In the same year, ground was broken for a hospital in his hometown, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. When it opened in 2004, it became the first modern medical facility to be built in that area in nearly 40 years. He personally donated $3.5 million toward the hospital's construction.


  • The most famous quote attribued to Mutombo is probably, "Who wants to sex Mutombo?" — a catch phrase that he allegedly developed as a pick-up line during his Georgetown days. Supposedly, the phrase stuck amid much success with it for Mutombo, and use of it has continued to this day. Although it is arguably chauvinistic, the phrase has achieved cult status among basketball fans of both genders.
  • After a successful block, Dikembe was known for taunting his opponents by waving his index finger, like a parent would reproach a disobedient child.
  • Mutombo is fluent in many languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Lingala, Tshiluba and other central African languages.
  • Known for his engaging personality, Mutombo was selected to an NBA All-Interview team in 2002. When Georgetown was playing Duke University in the 1989 NCAA tournament, many Georgetown fans enjoyed poking fun at the occasionally pretentious Duke fans by noting that he alone spoke more languages than the entire Duke team and coaches.
  • Mutombo is one of two NBA players to wear the largest basketball shoes, size 22 (the other being Shaquille O'Neal).
  • Dikembe Mutombo, then a rookie for the Denver Nuggets, asked Micheal Jordan if he could make a free throw with his eyes closed. Jordan closed his eyes, swished the shot through, and told Mutombo, "Welcome to the NBA."
  • In the 1997 NBA playoffs, Mutombo pointed out that Micheal Jordan had never dunked on him. Jordan later drove the lane, soared to the basket, and slammed the ball over Mutombo's reaching hand. Jordan waved a finger at the center, mimicking Mutombo's famous antic which the NBA had deemed taunting, and took the technical foul.

Career summary and highlights[]

  • 4-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year: 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001
  • 8-time NBA All-Star: 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002
  • 3-time All-NBA:
  • Second Team: 2001
  • Third Team: 1998, 2002
  • 6-time All-Defensive:
  • First Team: 1997, 1998, 2001
  • Second Team: 1995, 1999, 2002
  • NBA All-Rookie First Team: 1992
  • 2-time NBA regular-season leader, rebounding average: 2000 (14.1), 2001 (13.5)
  • 4-time NBA regular-season leader, total rebounds: 1995 (1029), 1997 (929), 1999 (610), 2000 (1157)
  • NBA regular-season leader, offensive rebounds: 2001 (307)
  • 2-time NBA regular-season leader, defensive rebounds: 1999 (418), 2000 (853)
  • 3-time NBA regular-season leader, blocking average: 1994 (4.1), 1995 (3.9), 1996 (4.5)
  • 5-time NBA regular-season leader, total blocks: 1994 (336), 1995 (321), 1996 (332), 1997 (264), 1998 (277)
  • Was a key player of one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, when the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets eliminated the first-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in the 1994 playoffs.
  • Career averages (as of March 2006): 10.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.9 BPG

External links[]

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