Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo. The name alone is Basketball Hall of Fame worthy, Just ask the man himself.
The man who ranks second in NBA history in blocked shots, behind Hakeem Olajuwon, thinks he belongs in the Hall along with his fellow African-born dominant pivot. As he told the Associated Press at an NBA Cares initiative on Wednesday:
"If you can see my name just below one of the great basketball players to ever play for this league," Mutombo said, "for me to come this close to breaking his record, I don't see why I cannot be on the same bus with him. That's how I look at it."
The big man's statistics and career achievements are indeed impressive.
Selected fourth overall in the 1991 NBA Draft, he went on to average a startling 16.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a rookie, on his way to the 1991-92 All-Rookie First Team. Over the course of a remarkable 18-year career, he led the league in both total rebounds and total blocks separately on five occasions, and managed career averages of 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He was also a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and an eight-time NBA All-Star.
If you go on the statistics alone, basketball-reference.com will tell us that Mutombo has a 0.0639 probability rating of making it to the Hall of Fame. To put that in context, that ranks 193rd all-time, in the neighbourhood of the likes of Baron Davis, Reggie Miller, Antawn Jamison, Larry Nance and fellow former Denver star Dan Issel.
As you can see, it is a bit of a mixed bag, with both Miller and Issel being already members of the Hall, while the likes of Davis, Jamison and Nance likely will never get a sniff.
And this is where a statistical analysis alone becomes unfair. Sure, as Mutombo says, his ranking as second all-time in blocks is almost a fait accompli for a Hall nomination. However, there is much more to the Dikembe Mutombo story than numbers.
The man had a massive impact on the basketball court -- but possibly more off it. Mutombo has devoted much of his personal fortune and effort over the years to helping his native Congo through charitable means.
With that in mind, "he feels his closest bond to the Rockets and owner Leslie Alexander, who offered financial as well as organizational support for Mutombo's personal crusade to build a hospital in his native Congo.
Mutombo started his foundation in 1997 with a personal $19 million US donation to benefit the people of his homeland. In 2007, he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center there, named after his mother."
Mutombo says his hospital has become one of the best in Africa, with 185 beds and state-of-the-art equipment. He says it's treated patients from nine different countries on the continent and he's close to securing an agreement under which U.S. diplomats could receive medical care there.
"We're very pleased with this dream," he said. "Sometimes, I sit down and I cannot believe that it is a reality — that a young man like me was able to build a hospital in the continent that is going through so much, and a country that is going through a civil war. Somehow, the hospital survives."
Mutombo was recognized in former President George W. Bush's 2007 State of the Union address and he's also the only two-time winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given for "outstanding service and dedication to the community."
And this is the big point. Mutombo is not simply a basketball player -- he is a citizen of the world, a well-rounded athlete that can teach a lot to the fraternity of professional athletes. While the likes of Michael Jordan used his Hall induction as a podium on which to retaliate against those that doubted him over his career, Mutombo's ambitions seem much more wholesome.
It would mean a lot for the many generations coming from Africa," he said. "More African children would say that, one of us did it, we can do it, we cannot hold ourselves back because of the poverty of the place where we grew up, the trouble that's surrounding our community. When the opportunity is presented to us, we have to seize it. That happened to me."
Mutombo deserves that Hall of Fame induction when he becomes eligible from 2015 onwards. The man, and the basketball player belong in Springfield.
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