« Mount Mutombo », 2,18 m talented
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques wa Mutombo, aka Dikembe Mutombo was born in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo on in 1966. He began his career at Onatra of Kinshasa, the club of his home town before flying for the USA, precisely in Washington, where he went to study medicine with the objective of becoming a medical doctor. He studied at the University of Goergetown, a university that helped him in his future career as a basketballer and which proved to be the key to his success because this is where he met John Thompson, trainer of the NCAA hoyas, the club from Georgetown. The coach found it very easy to convince Mutombo, who was passionate about basketball to join his team. He played as a pivot and as he played several games, the Congolese gained confidence and became the number one at his position. He played alongside Alonzo Mourning (future Miami Heat player). The 2.18m/ 118kg player burst to the scene and his career in the USA really took off.
« Not in my house! »
His NBA career started during the draft, a night where the officials of the 30 NBA teams come together to detect young talents from Universities, colleges or abroad. And Dikiembe immediately attracted attention from the officials of the Denver Nuggets, he was the fourth player selected by the team. It all went very fast for him, for just his first season, as he adapted rapidly in the game plan of the Nuggets with a good rating per game for his first NBA season: 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3 counters… Pivot, he even became the pillar of the team. A strong performance in defence, Dikembe Mutombo became one of the best defenders in the NBA. The African became very popular in the game: in 1993 Adidas produce tennis shoes with his effigie called Mutombo. On this model, the African was highly honoured as well as his origins. Despite his popularity and a lack of top class players to play alongside him, he did not win any trophy in five years spent with Denver. In 1995, he joined the Atlanta Hawks.
However, his individual talent paid off as he voted on four occasions as the best NBA defender. Dikembe used a very unique technique to defend by swinging his index from right to left before throwing a jibe at his opponent with the ball: “Not in my house”. In 2001, just one year after joining Philadelphia 76ers, he played his first NBA final but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2002, Dikembe surpassed the 10000 points mark as well as 10.000 rebounds. He became only the 28th player in the NBA history to achieve such feet with a career still long ahead of him.
« Basketball is over for me »
He later spent a short season with the New Jersey Knight Nets, where he spent most of his time on the sidelines injured. Then he spent another with the New York Knicks for ending his career with the Houston Rockets (all within five seasons). In Texas, he served as back up for Yao Ming but the Congolese was brought in for a particular purpose; that of grooming the tall Chinese as a pivot. On April 21 2009, picked up a knee injury during the first quarter of a play-off game against Portland Blazers and was stretched off. In addition to the defeat, this was a big blow to the team as they lost the player definitely. The next day the player announced his retirement from the sport: “Basketball is over for me” said the Congolese. “I have spent 18 perfect seasons without picking up an injury, so I want to leave with my head high without any regrets.” 18 seasons well spent during which he was nominated eight times in the All Star team with an average of 9,8 pts per match, 10,3 rebounds and 2,7 counters in 1196 NBA matches. Till date, he is the second best rebounder in the NBA with 3289 counters.
With his career over, “Mount Mutombo” has been goodwill projects in Africa. Charity works which he had already started in 2005 with a budget of over 20 million dollars for the construction of a hospital in Kinshasa. After almost single-handedly financing the project he decided to name the hospital after his mother Bamba Marie Mutombo. He is also training young African basketballers; like the 2010 training camp in Senegal where he became the coach of 65 youths. A dream for the players…