TrueHoop: Dikembe Mutombo

Noah backs up talk, puts up historic line

May, 5, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

AP Photo/Julio CortezJoakim Noah came up huge for the Bulls as they eliminate the Nets in Game 7
For the first time since Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, the Chicago Bulls won a “winner-take-all” game on the road. It is the first time the Bulls won a Game 7 on the road in franchise history going 0-6 previously.

The Brooklyn Nets failed in their attempt to become the ninth team in NBA history to win a series after falling behind three games to one. The Nets fall to 0-2 all-time in Game 7s and have not won a playoff series since 2007.

What went right for Bulls?
Joakim Noah talked the talk and then walked the walk. After Chicago’s Game 6 loss Noah said, “We're going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we're going to win."

Noah made certain of that with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Considering his foot injury, it was a heroic and historic performance. Read on for more on where that stat line stands among the all-time greats below.

Noah had a series high 1.33 points per play and shot 71 percent from the field Saturday.

With Kirk Hinrich out, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler came up big. Belinelli poured in a playoff career-high 24 points. Butler played the entire game and was stellar defensively – holding Deron Williams to 4-11 FG and Joe Johnson to 0-5 FG when they were matched up.

What went wrong for Nets?
Miguel Cabrera
Johnson – who had several clutch moments during the regular season – went ice cold. Johnson scored just six points, missing 12 of his 14 shots.

The Nets never led in the game - trailing by as many as 17 points, but they were able to cut the deficit to single-digits for most of the last quarter-and-a-half.

Johnson’s struggles were part of the reason Brooklyn couldn’t complete the comeback. After an alley-oop dunk at the 6:37 mark in third, he missed his last seven shots of the game, six of them coming from beyond the arc.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Game
Noah became the first player with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 7 win since Kevin Garnett in 2004. In fact since blocks became official in 1973-74 the only ones to reach those numbers in a Game 7 win besides Noah and Garnett are Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Elvin Hayes.

Vucevic cleans glass but can't slow LeBron

December, 31, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
The fireworks started early on New Year’s Eve in Orlando, as the Miami Heat slipped past the Orlando Magic 112-110 in overtime.

The stat line of the night belonged to Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 20 points and 29 rebounds. He became the third different player in Magic history to grab at least 25 rebounds in a game. Dwight Howard (four times) and Shaquille O’Neal (twice) are the others.

With two rebounds in overtime, Vucevic was able to set the Magic franchise record for rebounds in a game. The previous mark was 28, which Shaq did against the Nets in 1993.

Vucevic’s 20-20 game is the first for an Orlando player other than Howard since 1998. Howard had the last 41 such games for the Magic. Horace Grant (one game in 1998) and O’Neal (15 games from 1992 to 1994) are the other players with a 20-20 game in franchise history.

He is only the fourth NBA player in the last 20 years with at least 20 points and 29 rebounds in the same game. Vucevic joins Kevin Love, Dikembe Mutombo (twice) and Charles Barkley.

LeBron James scored 36 points and dished out 11 assists to lead the Heat to the win. With the double-double against the Magic, he is one of only nine players with at least 15 double-doubles this season.

James has scored at least 20 points in each of the Heat’s 29 games so far this season. Since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976, that’s the second-longest such streak to start a season. Only George Gervin, with 45 straight games to start the 1981-82 campaign, has a longer streak.

LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all finished with at least 20 points in the win. This is the 27th regular season game where all three passed that threshold, but only the sixth time in the last two seasons. The Heat are 22-5 when all three score 20 points.

A shocking bit of insight from the legendary big man Dikembe Mutombo, who is still rehabbing from his career-ending ruptured tendon in April. (By the way, Mutombo was called for a foul on the play.)

Can only wish that classiest of NBA players the best of luck in achieving a full recovery as quickly as possible.

When he heard that Dikembe Mutombo's playing days were over, ESPN's Chad Ford cried, and wrote the big man an e-mail. It turns out that Ford's is one of the many lives Mutombo has forever enriched with his enormous heart.

As background, you really should read the tremendous story about the time Ford and Mutombo spent together in South Africa.

After some arm-twisting, Ford agreed to let me republish his e-mail. Here it is:


I don't know if you remember me. I was the reporter who traveled with you to the first Africa 100 camp in South Africa. I wrote a story about traveling to Mama Jackey's and the impact you had on the children and me. However, I never told you the full story. Watching you go down last night had a powerful effect on me. I wept and my children asked me why ... this is the story that I told them.

"Of all of the professional athletes I've met, Dikembe Mutombo's had the greatest personal impact on me.

I traveled with him and the NBA to the first Africa 100 camp -- a trip that changed my life and ultimately led to me leaving ESPN full time to pursue teaching and practicing conflict resolution.

Before my time at ESPN, I had studied international conflict resolution and was committed to making a difference in the world. I was sure someday I'd be a mediator, out walking into the deepest, darkest areas of conflict, trying to shine a light on the humanity that still connects us together.

However after graduation from my graduate program in conflict resolution, ESPN bought a website that myself and co-founder Jason Peery created, Suddenly I was immersed in the sports world ... and loving every minute of it. After a couple of years, my focus had totally shifted. Trade rumors and draft rankings consumed every thought and ever hour. I had a dream job, but inside I was lost.

When I found out about the Africa 100 and what Mutombo was going to do, I felt compelled to go. The experience changed my life. Seeing the poverty and despair on the faces of children was heart wrenching. But more so, seeing what people like Mutombo were doing inspired me. I was ashamed that I wasn't doing more with what I had. I wasn't the only one. A number of the NBA coaches and scouts I was with were touched deeply as well. I remember long conversations with Michael Curry and Lance Blanks about the ramifications of what we were seeing.

I spent several sleepless nights in the hotel, writing a long letter to my wife, Joanie. I told her about my desires to help people. How I wanted my life's work to amount to more than just basketball. I wanted to make a difference like Dikembe had. I told her that when I came home, I wanted to begin looking at changing professions. I was willing to give up my dream job if it meant a chance to help the lives of others.

I filed that story, which is my favorite I've ever written. I was overwhelmed by the response to it. People offered to help Mama Jackey. Donations came flowing in. ESPN featured the story on the front page of the site. It was my first inkling that sports truly can make a difference in the lives of others.

Within months I was looking for a job teaching conflict resolution program at a university, preparing to travel to Israel to write about sports and conflict resolution there, and thinking everyday about Mutombo and what I saw him do in Africa. In 2005, I left ESPN on a full-time basis to run the McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding in Hawaii. I also began reporting about and ultimately consulting and working with PeacePlayers International in the Middle East -- an organization that has shown the power of sports to bring enemies together.

I can trace almost all of it back to that day in Soweto. To those that say basketball can't make a difference in people's lives, I wish they could meet Dikembe. Not only has he changed the lives of tens of thousands in Africa, but he made a difference in my life that I'll never forget."

Thank you brother. You've made an impact on my life and my families that I'll forever grateful for. Here's to many more years of Dikembe Mutombo uplifiting the world ...

This is one of the best NBA videos ever, and it's 100% Mutombo.

Almost wherever he goes, Dikembe Mutombo is the loudest, gravelliest, tallest and smiliest person in the room. He can fill any amount of space -- with laughter, stories, elbows or anything else. Everywhere he goes, people notice him, talk to him, and interact with him.

So there a thousand stories about Dikembe Mutombo. On the day he says he won't play basketball again, these tales are popping up all over the place, and as you'll see below, they are loaded down with comedy. That's right! He brought that on, and his clowning should be celebrated!

But just as he'll happily toss around a "Fat-rick Ewing" joke to rib an old friend, Mutombo has also been the most serious of NBA players. He has always been the NBA player most comfortable addressing the United Nations, administering polio vaccines, being name-checked in a State of the Union address or building a hospital outside Kinshasa from scratch. He has degrees in linguistics and diplomacy, and you can tell.

A regret of mine is not having had the time to ask him about the book I saw him reading in 2001, when he was new to the Sixers. Right there at his locker, he had his face buried in a book that I swear to you must have been 1,000 pages, and it was an academic-sounding investigation of (Anyone want to guess the topic? Think heavy) ... god.

Even as he'd yell out across the room (I think he thought he was using a regular speaking voice) making fun of Aaron McKie or Allen Iverson, being all lightness and chuckles, he was also always weighty and meaningful. The ridiculous gravitas of his voice was no accident. Even as he's joking about overeating ... he's thinking about preventing famine, disease and widespread death.

And it's to those causes that he'll now, no doubt, commit the time that used to go to basketball.

I'm devestated for Mutombo that he can't run around like a young man anymore, making tons of money and wagging fingers in people's faces for kicks. But I'm also fully aware that he's better prepared than just about any athlete ever has been to thrive in life after basketball. I can believe he'll be heart-broken about basketball, but I can't believe he'll stop smiling.

When I think of Dikembe Mutombo, I think of a man smiling. There's a lot of that in these stories:

  • Has he ever smiled more convincingly than when he was lying on the floor with the game ball after his young upstart Nuggets miraculously knocked off the then-mighty Sonics?
  • SLAM's Lang Whitaker writes about when he first met Mutombo in 1997 in Atlanta ("Pretty much immediately," says Whitaker of his early days in the Hawks' locker room, "I figured out that Dikembe Mutombo was amazing.") and reminds us that somewhere out there there's an amazing video of Mutombo on Conan O'Brien, sucking in helium and making his voice even stranger. We need to see that. Whitaker also points to this video gem, in which we get to shower, bowl, golf and horseback ride with the young big man.
  • Videos of Mutombo's slaying of the Sonics, and doing his humanitarian thing in Africa.
  • Peachtree Hoops: "To a man who gave Atlanta the finger wag, toughness, and all out effort, and more importantly to a person who gave the country of Congo a hospital, we salute you sir. In a boy's game, you were always the best of men."
  • The history of the finger wag, going back to 1970.
  • Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacque Wamutombo. Just so you have the full name on record.
  • ESPN's Matt Wong from some time ago (thanks Brett): "Patrick Ewing was in the house, receiving a standing ovation and looking at home while still looking unfamiliar without his hightop fade. However, when the Knick great visited the Rockets locker room after the game, the reception wasn't as kind. His buddies Juwan Howard and Dikembe Mutombo showed no mercy making fun of his weight. And even when Ewing went into another room, Mutombo continued in that one-of-a kind, raspy voice of his, 'Number 33 ... Fat-rick Ewing!'"
  • UPDATE: Must-read from the archives: Chad Ford joins Dikembe Mutombo in a visit to a Soweto program for South African teens who have been sexually abused: "'Important people never come here,' one 12-year-old boy explains. 'In fact, no one ever comes here. People have forgotten about most of us. How did you remember we are here?' The look on thousands of other faces said the same thing. The children are curious about America, the NBA and my shoes. I'm wearing a pair of black Nike cross trainers and they seem to have struck a chord. Maybe it's because many of the children, despite being dressed in sharp gray slacks, blue blazers, white shirts and ties, don't have any shoes at all. ... It's hard to argue with the results. The school boasts a 100 percent pass rate every year. Many of the children go on to be productive citizens in the community. The children I saw all appeared happy and well adjusted. Ithuteng Trust is a called a 'miracle school,' by some here. Mackey is more modest when discussing here achievements. 'Today is the greatest day we've ever had for the school,' she said. 'We still struggle for recognition. This visit will do so much to help us. Perhaps it will inspire others to do the same.' After the ceremony, the children escort Mutombo and the others to a new rose garden. With shovel in hand, Mutombo begins digging holes and planting rose bushes -- one for every parent who has left a child here orphaned. The scene brings tears to the eyes of most in the crowd. Even the eyes of some of the NBA's most hardened scouts tear up at the event. Mutombo is not done. In a surprise gesture, he hands Mama Jackey a check for $100,000. Jackey literally jumps into Mutombo's arms."
  • UPDATE: Career highlights:

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

The Oregonian quotes Dikembe Mutombo: "I'm going to need surgery. For me, basketball is over. I cried so much about it when I was laying on the floor."

The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice writes:

His 18-year NBA career ended Tuesday night with a gruesome knee injury midway through his 1,297th game. He left the floor on a stretcher after every single teammate had surrounded him on the floor.

That gesture spoke volumes about what they thought of him. He's the funniest, smartest professional athlete you will ever meet.

He has that booming raspy voice, that wide smile and that very loud laugh. ...

Mutombo should have gone out with a championship parade, hearing the cheers of thousands. He should have had the chance to tell his fans he appreciated it.

Instead, he sat in a quiet, losing locker room, announcing he'd never play again. He'll go on to the next chapter of his life.

''I need to be positive and thank God for the wonderful 18 years I had,'' he said.

One tremendous thing Mutombo has going for himself: There is a lot to his life besides basketball.

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • Almost ten years after he pouted his way on stage at the 1999 NBA Draft and reluctantly put on a Vancouver Grizzlies cap, Steve Francis is dealt to the Grizzlies for a conditional 2011 second-round draft pick.  This may or may not be a precursor to the Rockets signing Dikembe Mutombo.  
  • Mutombo is on record as saying, "'I will be in Boston or San Antonio by the end of the year."  48 Minutes of Hell says the Spurs should say thanks, but no thanks, to Deke's services, and explains why Ian Mahinmi should be a factor in the decision: "Ian Mahinmi is rehabbing two ankles, one of which he injured while rehabbing the other. It's a laughable affair, I know. Once healthy, however, it really is in the Spurs best interest to keep Mahinmi's development on the fast track. This will necessitate minutes with the parent club. Mahinmi might regain his lungs by spending a short stint splashing around in the Toros' kiddy pool, but little else. The Spurs need to know if he can swim, and, if so, to what depths. The 10 minutes per game Popovich would find for Mutombo are better spent on Ian Mahinmi. Hold these words for later razzing: Mahinmi's end of the year numbers for San Antonio will be more impressive than Mutumbo's Boston totals." [emphasis mine].
  • Ric Bucher writes for ESPN the Magazine that things are getting ugly in Oakland: "However bad it looks at 8-22, it's way worse behind the scenes. According to sources, [Stephen] Jackson, Nelson's staunchest ally in the lockerroom, was called into Nelson's car when he showed up for the team's shootaround before facing Orlando. Nelson apparently told Jackson he was playing poorly and Jackson, who had been fighting through injuries to stay on the court, was so upset he skipped the shootaround."  
  • Some interesting data from Nielsen that chart the performance of Christmas Day games from seasons past: "Since ABC obtained NBA broadcasting rights in 2002, the network's Christmas Day games have averaged a 4.1 rating and 6.9 million viewers nationally. The highest mark came in 2004 when the Lakers and Heat (featuring a much-anticipated reunion between Kobe and Shaq) pulled a 7.3 rating and 13.2 million viewers."
  • Ira Winderman notes, "In the past three games, Michael Beasley has played 18, 15 and 13 minutes. Of course, the Heat also won all three of those games."  Has Eric Spoelstra lost confidence in his rookie? Not according to the Heat's coach: " "It wasn't necessarily an indictment against Michael. It's just the unit that was in there wasn't getting it done by the scoreboard, so we had to change the energy. He's young."
  • Two of the best in the business -- CelticsBlog and Forum Blue & Gold -- host a Q & A exchange on the eve of the big game.  CelticsBlog shares the recipe for "The Rondo Cocktail."
  • Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns "sometimes wonder[s] why Nash doesn't shoot the basketball more himself," after Nash buried Denver on Monday night. VoTS concludes, "Steve Nash wouldn't be Steve Nash if he were a shoot-first point guard, and especially on a team that also features Amare, Shaq and J-Rich, the Suns really need Steve Nash the distributor rather than Steve Nash the scorer on most nights."
  • Zach Randolph went down hard in the third quarter of the Clippers' loss to Toronto Monday night.  Most recounts of the game -- including Randolph's -- had Chris Bosh as the culprit.  Upon further review, says Clips Nation, Jake Voskhul was to blame and "it sure looks like Voskuhl was happy to give Randolph a good hard shove."
  • Hornets247 was justifiably bummed out by the Hornets' performance last night against the Lakers.  Tyson Chandler is a pivotal player for New Orleans -- both substantively and spiritually: "When Tyson gets fired up for a game, two things can happen: the Hornets find him early, he gets some easy buckets, which gets him clicking on defense, and he plays great OR the Hornets can't find him early or he's fouled hard repeatedly and can't get easy buckets, he starts getting frustrated, and the Hornets fall apart on both ends.  The guy really is pretty key to what they do, and tonight he was a mess. "

Researchers are studying athlete charities, and finding that there are not as many of them as you might think. Greg Bishop reports in the Seattle Times (forgive me, it's a few days old -- I'm still catching up) reports on the ongoing research of Michigan Professor Kathy Babiak doctoral candidate Scott Tainsky.

... they studied athlete charities in the NBA, using the most recent 990 tax forms. Of 91 players who claimed to have charities, only 43 had tax records and 41 had data.

Those players ranged in age from 22 to 40, in salary from $771,123 to $19.1 million, and in pro experience from three to 16 years. The players who started charities were older than the league average and made significantly more money than the league average during the 2005-06 season.

Their charities held average assets of $495,017, a number skewed by Dikembe Mutombo's charity ($12.8 million in 2005). The median was $17,625. The same held for the amount spent on program services, with an average of $102,653, but a median of $28,582. The researchers also found that NBA players spent almost as much on average on fundraising and administration ($49,323) as they gave away in grants ($59,628).

Two former Sonics superstars provided a stark contrast in terms of the share of expenses that went toward program services. Sixty-five percent is considered solid. Ray Allen came in at 75.5 percent; Gary Payton at 15 percent.

UPDATE: And check out a fascinating article about Ray Allen's history of giving.

UPDATE: A TrueHoop reader pores over the ratings of some sports-related charities and finds several are not very efficient. Dikembe Mutombo gives a lot but his foundation is not highly rated. Magic Johnson's foundation is not strong from a financial standpoint. Ditto the Naismith Memorial Foundation. The foundation built in honor of Jim Valvano gets high marks, however.