Remembering humanitarian/former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo is a multi-faceted deal. There’s his basketball career, and then there’s his life away from basketball, which is, if nothing else, wild as all hell involving strippers, dirty money and everything in between.
His on-court career was noteworthy. There’s the lineage of Georgetown big-men along with Patrick Ewing and Alzono Mourning. There’s the indelible image of him following the historic upset of his Denver Nuggets over the Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp-led Sonics in 1994.* Then there was his prowess as one of the better defensive centers who has ever lived, highlighted by his patented finger wave following blocked shots (all 3,289 of them). Then there was his stint in Philadelphia – which followed his Atlanta Hawks glory years (more on that city soon) – playing alongside Allen Iverson, and then getting beat to a pulp by Shaquille O’Neal in the 2001 Finals. There’s more to his career, but the point’s been made.
Now, off the court, there’s that bizarre sex-scandal from 2001 which alleged Deke and Patrick Ewing were two of several athletes (Terrell Davis, Jamal Anderson and, wait for it, Dennis Rodman) who accepted sexual favors from strippers at Atlanta’s Gold Club. I don’t know what’s funnier: Mutumbo attempting to say anything dirty to the strippers in his Congolese accent or trying to say it myself in his Congolese accent. And just as recent as three years ago, his name was linked to a $10M gold scam. Also, his birth name is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. That’s two less names than Dwight Howard had points last night in Boston for those keeping score at home.
I’m picking a number out of the air, but I’m 92% positive Mutumbo isn’t a bad guy at heart. He’s probably fun as hell to get wasted at happy hour with if we can be serious for a second. He’s also like damn near any other red-blooded American, despite not being born in America. He accepted sexual favors from strippers while trying to get over on the system. And he lived to gain an endorsement at the end of the day.
I love this world we live in sometimes.
* – Let the record show that Sonics team won 63 games that season and had cusp years that looked something like this. A Game 7 loss to Phoenix in 1993 behind Barkley’s 44 points and 24 rebounds. This five game defeat at the hands of Denver in 1994, and Seattle was the TOP SEED out West. A year later, a loss to the Lakers in first round. And in 1996, they finally got over the hump and made to the Finals where they faced the 72-10 Bulls losing 4-2 in a series where George Karl waited until Game 4 to put Payton on Jordan probably because GP was hurt at the start of the series and Jordan was, well, Jordan.**
** – The result? Payton hassled Jordan like no player in history, forcing him to go 22-58 from the field in Games 4-6 (including an uncharacteristic 5-19 in Game 6). Pippen even went 16-54 during that same span. Too little, too late though. There was no chance in hell Chicago was going to blow a 3-0 Finals lead even if Seattle found a way to legally force Jordan and Pippen to play in straight jackets. Had the decision been made earlier, maybe we’re looking a Game 7 in Chicago for all the marbles. Who knows?***
*** – Oh yeah, this is about Mutumbo. Right.