Dikembe Mutombo Expects to Be Named to Hall of Fame
For Mutombo, it's a no brainer. He expects to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame after becoming eligible in 2015.
"Are you kidding, man?'' Mutombo said in an interview Wednesday with FanHouse about whether he believes he will be inducted. "I believed when I played that one day I would see my name being called in Springfield, Mass. ... I think so (that he will get in).''
Defensively, the 7-foot-2 center, who played from 1991-2009, had few equals. He was named Defensive Player of the Year four times, tying Detroit center Ben Wallace for the most ever, and led the NBA in blocks three times and in rebounding twice while playing in eight All-Star Games with Denver, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
If Mutombo doesn't make the Hall, it will be due to his offense. Mutombo, in Denver on Wednesday to present the ball for tipoff before the Nuggets' opener against Utah, averaged a pedestrian 9.8 points. But it must be said his career average went down after he had a much-reduced role in his final five seasons with Houston.
But Mutombo, who averaged 10.3 rebounds and 2.75 blocks for his career, overall looks to be right. His defense should be enough for a Hall pass.
If there are any doubts, his humanitarian work provides a good tiebreaker. Mutombo, who was inducted in 2007 into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Boise, Idaho, has spent $23 million out of his own pocket to build a hospital in his native Congo.
"He's a hell of a humanitarian,'' said Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin. "But just basketball, he gets in. ... Why wouldn't he? ... He's a better defensive player than Dwight Howard (the Orlando center who has won the past two Defensive Player of the Year awards). I know so. I know so for a fact. I played against both.''
It must be said Martin believes he should go down as a better defensive player than Mutombo, Howard and Wallace.
"Yeah, besides myself,'' Martin said of Mutombo being the best defensive post player in recent NBA history. "Hell, yeah, I'm better than (Mutombo). ... Deke guarded (just) fives (centers). I guard one through fives (point guards through centers). ... Ben just was a rebounder.''
But back to Mutombo and his Hall of Fame chances. He's often a modest guy, but not when it comes to this topic.
"I think I played with a great respect,'' Mutombo said of why he believes he should be enshrined. "I accomplished almost everything that any player can accomplish. I broke every record (that) was there, from single record, from playoff record to rebounding record, blocked shots record.''
Stopping for a fact check, Mutombo holds NBA marks for most blocks in a five-game playoff series and in a seven-game series and is tied for most blocks in a quarter, most consecutive seasons leading the league in blocks and the tie he talks about with Wallace.
"If you look at my numbers, I won four Defensive Players of the Year,'' Mutombo said. "No other player has more. Rebounding titles. Blocked shot titles. Playoff records. I don't see where my card (with his name on it) will be moving away (when he's eligible for the Hall). I don't see my name on any card and then (the voters say), 'Oh, no. Oh, no.'''
Mutombo doesn't mind getting ahead of himself. He's already planning for his Hall of Fame presenter to be Hakeem Olajuwon, the legendary center and 2008 inductee whom Mutombo said paved the way for other players to enter the NBA from Africa.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson