Dikembe Mutombo, the man who will forever make the finger wag a part of basketball folk lore, is 48 years old today.
Mutombo retired before I really started following basketball but if there was any doubt to his legacy as a player, this Geico commercial nails it perfectly for the novice fan.
Wikipedia does a great job of summing up Dikembe Mutombo’s time in Denver:
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 and averaged 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, and nearly three blocks per game. A cornerstone in the Nuggets’ frontcourt, Mutombo 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 about 11 points a game. The team lacked a quality supporting cast, however, and at its best won only 42 games. In Mutombo’s third season, however, Denver pulled off a major playoff upset by stunning the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics in the first round, becoming the first eighth seed to win an NBA playoff series. At the end of Game 5, Mutombo fell to the ground, holding the ball over his head in a moment of joy. Mutombo’s defensive presence was the key to the 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.
In the category of I wish I would have thought of that, full credit to the Denver Nugget website writer Aaron Lopez for his opening line of the website story:
According to basketball legend, Dikembe Mutombo swatted away a pacifier and then waggled an index finger at the nurses in a Zaire hospital on June 25, 1966.
If you have any specific memories of Mutombo, please feel free to share in the comment section.