Allow me to elaborate: When I was just a young lad, playing for the Marlboro (VT) Magic, I was not especially gifted. I did have one talent, though: I was a shot-blocker. In one game against The Austine School for the Deaf, I rang up double digit blocks. (For those of you that would chide the players of The Austine School for the Deaf, you can kiss my ass. We only beat them by one.)
I was 10 in 1994, and a big fan of Shawn Kemp, who you can bet will have his own entry when his birthday comes around (or his death, whichever comes first). Let me tell you something, I was pretty excited to see him and Payton do damage to the Nuggets in the playoffs. My young mind was not really able to concentrate on many other teams than the Knicks, Bulls, Sonics, Suns, Spurs, etc., so I didn't know a thing about the '94 Nugs.
As we now know, Mr. Mutombo was accompanied by some gangster players that year. LaPhonso Ellis had a career year, Reggie Williams was balling, Bryant Stith was, uh, a good roll player, and Robert Pack was the toughest little guy to hit the league in a while. (You don't think Robert Pack is hard? You're wrong.) Leading the team in scoring was the best non-Kareem black muslim athlete in NBA history, the most lethal scorer at LSU since Pistol Pete, tourette's-having-but-i-don't-care Mahmoud Abdul Raouf.
Despite the Nug's level of sweetness, the Sonics were exceptional. Gary Payton at point, Kendall Gill at SG, Schrempf at SF, Kemp at PF, and Smooth Sam Perkins at C. They were able to bring Ricky Pierce (historically underrated) off the bench for almost 15 ppg in 20 minutes a game (!). They had Nate McMillan playing seventh man, and he was excellent as well. What a team. To this day, I can't believe the Nuggets beat them.
But they did. Kemp got his ass kicked, for probably the first time ever. The leading scorer in the series was Detlef Schrempf, for goodness sakes. Dikembe Mutombo had 69 blocks in 12 playoff games that year and played absolutely out of his mind. He was primarily responsible for holding Shawn Kemp to 37% shooting, which was, to say the least, unexpected. (Though Shawn Kemp did cram on him a couple of times.) [Interesting Factoid: The Nuggets may have been aided in their playoff run by Mr. John Elway, who used to attend games during which he would announce Dikembe's entrance in the starting lineup. His call? "Now let's get ready to Mu-Tooooooom-Boooo!"]
Needless to say, 10 year old Jimmy V had found a hero, one who had 6 names and spoke 9 languages and waved his finger when he blocked your shot. Now it turns out he is a good guy as well, helping to build a hospital in his native Congo, overcoming malaria, and being a crusty old man who gets a lot of boards. Also, he had to take a lion's share of elbows from Shaq in that memorable Sixers-Lakers finals and got completely screwed by the refs.
I love the guy. He's tough, he doesn't complain much, he's pretty ridiculous, but it's in an endearing way (if you don't understand that, watch this).
That's why I was kind of happy when Bush pointed him out. Then he said this: "Dikembe Mutumbo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine - but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth - or the duty to share his blessings with others. He has built a brand new hospital in his hometown...blah blah blah he's great."
What a crock of shit. I think the imprecision of GWB's statement is best summed up by the former editor of the Sports Section in the Hoya Herald or whatever Georgetown calls their paper. He noted: "First...Dikembe came to Georgetown University to study languages - he enrolled in the School of Languages and Linguistics...Second, the arrival of a 7-2 freshman on campus may not have been a surprise to Hoya Head Coach John Thompson. Mutombo played on the Zairean junior national team in 1986 and caught the attention of U.S. development officer Herman Henning, who sent a tape of Mutumbo to Georgetown."
Let's take a look at those two facts a little more closely. Basically what I surmise from these facts is that Mutumbo knows 9 languages (though his English is terrible and they had to play some games to get him past the SAT). They are: Spanish, French, Portugese, English, and "five African dialects". Now I'm no straight-a student, but if I spoke that many languages, I don't think getting a degree in linguistics would be any sweat. (Also, he was on a USAID scholarship, not one from Georgetown for studying medicine. Foreign aid.)
[Mutombo's most notable linguistically feat is without question his now-legendary pickup line, "Who wants to sex Mutombo!" which he used to use as he entered The Tombs, the place where G-town athletes meet and greet young ladies.]
There is also more to Mutumbo's scouting. He was scouted by some hot shot, Jarryd Halberstadt, since he was a big ass kid. He went to a special Salvation Army school, played on the national team, and probably had videos of himself being sent all over the place. This was only five years after the days of Hakeem, remember, and bigass Africans would be all the rage in the NCAA until Yinka Dare ran that train off the tracks in the mid 90's.
My point is this: Dikembe Mutombo is a great guy, but I don't see why we need to turn him into the patron saint of Africa, who could have been a doctor, and all this other crap. He's just like any other African center; he's enormous, he got scouted by some money-grubbing white guy, he got sent to a school and made them a bunch of money, and now he makes his NBA teams a ton of money (well, he used to). Dikembe Mutombo is not state of the union material. He got lucky. There are more important people who should be recognized, and I think it devalues his legacy as a basketball player and a person to make up bullshit about him that makes him seem like some kind of Cookie-Monster-soundalike Renaissance Man. (Personally, I'm a lot more impressed with the first guy to actually pull this off, Mr. Hakeem the Dream. But that's just me.)
I'm sorry; I won't bore you with much more political nonsense. Instead, to offset my whining, I made up a little list of some players that Dikembe Mutumbo has injured in his career with his giant, flailing, out of control elbows. That's the kind of thing a true African badass deserves recognition for. Without adieu:
Lebron James (this picture was actually taken after a DKM elbow!)