Dikembe Mutombo may be best known for Geico commercials to the next generation but in his prime, the 7-foot-2 center was the master of ceremonies. He won four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards while turning the “finger wag” into an art form.
The 54-year-old legend — dubbed “Mt. Mutombo” during 18 epic NBA seasons — recently made the media rounds to discuss his burgeoning coffee company (Mutombo Coffee) and promptly shared his thoughts on the premier post players in the league today. Naturally, the conversation turned to his choices for MVP and whether Mutombo could return to today’s NBA and still dominate in the paint.
“Of course, I would [dominate],” Mutombo told Sports Illustrated. “Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic — those are my two picks for MVP this season. If I were on the court with them, they would be able to get a few shots up, but only a few. I would remind them I’m the master of ceremonies.”
Mutombo furthered poured on the Sixers’ love when he included Embiid and teammate Ben Simmons among his nominees for Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2021. His full list? Joel Embiid. Rudy Gobert. Clint Capela. Ben Simmons (via NBA.com).
“There’s nothing like a good rim protector because when they come to the basket, very few can protect the rim,” Mutombo said. “And it’s not easy to protect the rim the way the game is played today, where the bigs extend all the way to 3-point.”
Mutombo retired in 2009 after he tallied 3,298 blocks (2nd all-time) and 12,359 rebounds (21st all-time) while appearing in eight All-Star games. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. The Sixers made a blockbuster deal for Mutombo in 2001 as the big man helped get them over the NBA Finals hump that year.
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Mutombo, Embiid Share Special Bond
Mutombo, the former fourth overall pick in 1991, didn’t deliver a championship to Philadelphia but he certainly left his mark. He formed a formidable one-two punch with Allen Iverson at the time despite those Sixers falling in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a hard-fought series.
He never forgot his time with the Sixers and raised his kids in Philadelphia-area schools while giving back to the community. Mutombo has also developed a kinship with Embiid over the years, likening the affable Cameroonian to “his son” after the two took part in the NBA Africa Games in 2017.
Teaching the Famed Finger Wag
The perfector of the famed finger wag has also been teaching his prized pupil how to properly perform his trademark move. Mutombo told TMZ Sports in 2018 that he was offering Embiid personal lessons and Embiid showed it off on the court.
“He’s one of the best big men in the game today. I love the kid so much,” Mutombo said of Embiid. “He’s the next Hakeem Olajuwon, a little bit of Mutombo, and I’m trying to teach him the ‘no, no, no, not today.’ He’s working on it. He’s doing his thing.”