Michael Jordan. The greatest basketball player of all-time. A man known as “MJ” who dominated the NBA for years and was the first and only player to win three straight scoring titles. A man who was so much more than basketball.
As a basketball player with a bigger than average heart, Dikembe Mutombo knows that the game of basketball is not just about scoring points and winning championships. After all, it’s about coming up with the right plays and the right shots at the right time. Mutombo gave us a glimpse of his soul and what he believes is the true essence of basketball in his new book, “Between the Lines: The Essence of the Game of Basketball”.
The NBA had just passed its twenty-fifth anniversary as an organized professional league when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls met the “Baby Bulls” on October 25, 1989. The game was a see-saw battle that fought back and forth before the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter and eventually won, 106-100. The following year, on December 29, 1990, Michael and the Bulls met the Utah Jazz and Dikembe Mutombo, the defender who many consider to be the best shot blocker of all time, who would go on to become his close friend and frequent rival.
Mutombo Dikembe didn’t make it to the NBA until he was 25. That didn’t stop him from having an 18-year Hall of Fame career as one of the league’s best defensive centers. Mutombo (tied with Ben Wallace) earned an NBA-record four Defensive Player of the Year honors, and his trademark finger wag is still one of the most recognized emblems, even among today’s NBA players. Mutombo was never afraid to take on a challenge, which is why his many encounters with Michael Jordan are among his fondest recollections.
During the regular season, Jordan and Mutombo faced off 18 times, and once in the playoffs. Jordan’s teams had a 12–6 advantage in those games, as one would anticipate. The Chicago Bulls swept the Atlanta Hawks in five games in the second round of the 1997 playoffs, as did the Georgetown alum’s team.
Against Michael Jordan, Mutombo Dikembe had his moments.
Dikembe Mutombo is second all-time in blocked shots with 3,289, second only to Hakeem Olajuwon. It wasn’t until the 1973–74 season that the statistic was made official. As a result, it’s probable that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would have had the 101 points required to stay ahead of Mutombo in the four seasons prior to the stat’s acknowledgment (not to mention Olajuwon).
He’s one of just five NBA players who have received more than 3,000 rejections. Between his ABA and NBA careers, Artis Gilmore amassed 3,178 points, although only 1,747 of them came in the NBA.
Few players were as brave as Michael Jordan when it came to going to the rim, but during the 1997 NBA All-Star Game, Mutombo chose to call out His Airness. In the six years they had fought one other, Mount Mutombo said Jordan had never dunked on him. Mutombo was in his debut season with the Hawks after five years with the Western Conference’s Denver Nuggets, and it was their first time as All-Star teammates.
It created a pleasant little competition between the two actors, which Mutombo grew to appreciate.
Michael Jordan took his vengeance on Mutombo at long last.
After eventually dunking on Dikembe Mutombo (L), Michael Jordan (R) raises his finger at him. | AFP/JEFF HAYNES/Getty Images
Michael Jordan defeated Dikembe Mutombo in the only postseason matchup between the two. Jordan made a baseline cut in the series-clinching Game 5 victory at the United Center. Jordan soared to the hoop after Luc Longley provided a beautiful pass. Mount Mutombo was finally conquered.
Jordan finished the thunderous dunk with a finger wag, like he always does.
However, Mutombo recently said on the Basketball Time Machine podcast that Jordan made him laugh the most.
“Everyone wanted to go up against Michael Jordan. That’s why I believe I scored 29 points and 22 rebounds the day we played the Chicago Bulls (in 1993), because you can feel the enthusiasm after what’s going on with me, and we ended up defeating them, which was fantastic.
“I believe they were the games that allowed me to establish myself as an All-Star. Michael, on the other hand, was as amusing as ever, delighting his buddies by shutting his eyes and hitting free throws. “What the hell is this man doing?” I wondered.
Mutombo was the target of the blind free throw. Jordan told Mutombo during his first season in Denver, “Hey, Mutombo, this one’s for you,” as he stepped to the line in an early-season game. He then swished a free shot while closing his eyes.
Dikembe Mutombo, a retired hero
Dikembe Mutombo has been working hard with his Mutombo Foundation since retiring in 2009. In his home Congo, he has established sophisticated medical facilities.
Mutombo received the Sager Strong Award for humanitarian efforts from the NBA in 2018. He is actively engaged in medical charities all around the world, with a special emphasis on the Southern Hemisphere and disadvantaged people everywhere. According to USA TODAY, when he received the humanitarian award in 2018, he said that it was part of a larger legacy.
“It’s in my family’s DNA to help people. I’m carrying on a family tradition that began with my grandparents and continues with my parents and myself. It’s a representation of my origins. It symbolizes my people, the Luba people, as we call them. I’m happy I’m doing well for them.”
Dikembe Mutombo makes a difference in his native country, and his basketball career has given him a more potent tool to do so. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he has a net worth of $75 million, which he uses to help the Congolese people as well as others in need throughout the world.
He also has great recollections of competing against Michael Jordan, the finest of the best.
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Michael Jordan proved a trash-talking Hall of Famer wrong by viciously dunking over Dikembe Mutombo. RELATED: Michael Jordan Proved a Trash-Talking Hall of Famer Wrong By Viciously Dunking Over Dikembe Mutombo
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