Big Deke
March 13, 2008 4:25 PM   Subscribe

He is a sports character for the ages. At 41, he is the NBA's oldest active player. Number two all time in blocked shots, he is probably best known for his trademark finger wag and unimitable deep gravelly voice. His current team's 20 game win streak has led him to gleefully suggest that their critics pucker up.

And all that pales in comparison to what he really should be known for: he is a great humanitarian. Capping the laundry list of his charitable activities, he has spent more than 15 million dollars of his own money endowing and ensuring the completion of the Biamba Marie Mutumbo Research and Teaching Hospital outside of Kinshasa, the first modern medical facility built in the region in forty years. He is an example for all professional athletes. He is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo, and he is what a true sports hero should be.
posted by John Smallberries (27 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
From Wikipedia: Mutombo originally intended to become a doctor; he attended Georgetown University on a USAID scholarship. Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson recruited him to play basketball.

While at Georgetown, Mutombo's international background and interests stood out. Like many other Washington-area college students, he served as a summer intern, once for the Congress of the United States and once for the World Bank.
posted by cell divide at 4:31 PM on March 13, 2008

posted by dersins at 4:32 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are we unsure of his sex? He seems pretty male.
posted by The Tensor at 4:49 PM on March 13, 2008

He is Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo

posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:55 PM on March 13, 2008

Interviewer: "What's the name of the store?"

DM: "Pasta Pasta. It was named after Pasta."

Dikembe, you just became my all-time favorite NBA player ever in the history of the universe.
posted by googly at 5:04 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nobody flies in the house of Mutombo!

I've always liked him, plus he cracks me up.
posted by Eekacat at 5:26 PM on March 13, 2008

I have a Mutombo jersey that used to belong to a 12 year old. I wear it when I need indy/NBA street cred.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 5:30 PM on March 13, 2008

I'm a good cowboy, because I have a hat on!
posted by dirigibleman at 5:57 PM on March 13, 2008

Very Tall Man: (lifts Nelson out of the sewer by his head) Do you find something comical about my appearance when I'm driving my automobile?
Nelson: Yeah.
Very Tall Man: Everyone needs to drive a vehicle, even the very tall. (turns Nelson to face the car)This was the largest auto that I could afford. Am I therefore to be made the subject of fun?
Nelson: I guess so.
(The tall guy forces Nelson to march down Main Street, pants down.)

(He drives slowly behind the ashamed bully)
Very Tall Man: Hey, everybody! Look at this, it's that boy who laughs at everyone. Let's laugh at him!
Crowd: HA-ha!
posted by Frank Grimes at 6:15 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

A great post, kudos john smallberries.
Plus, I was wondering who was the oldest active NBA player. It was kevin willis last year.
posted by fizzix at 6:16 PM on March 13, 2008


For those who don't get it: There is an urban legend that Mutombo, while at Georgetown, entered a bar and everyone got quiet and looked at him. He then simply said, "Who wants to sex mutombo?"

As far as I can tell from brief googling, this is a completely unconfirmed story. Nonetheless, it's the first thing that pops into my head when he's mentioned.
posted by christonabike at 6:26 PM on March 13, 2008

He is an example for all professional athletes...and he is what a true sports hero should be.

What most don’t know about this story is that as ladies approached him during the night, Deke gave a stern Finger Wag to any hefty girl who approached, stating “No fat chicks sex Mutombo.”
John Smallberries, that finger wag link may not have been the best argument for his character.
posted by forrest at 7:00 PM on March 13, 2008

He's the man on D. Too bad his offense isn't better. Houston has the twin towers back, although neither current tower can quite match up to Olajuwon.
posted by caddis at 7:07 PM on March 13, 2008

Obviously I haven't followed professional basketball much in the last twenty years; I had never heard of him.

It seems like he has a nice balance between "I will beat you, worm!" and "Hi! I like you!", like many of the most successful pro athletes have had (apocryphal sex story notwithstanding). Thanks for the post.
posted by yhbc at 7:25 PM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was a freshman at Georgetown when he was a senior. My very first memory as a Hoya was attending a reception in the School of Languages and Linguistics the first week I was there. The diminutive dean of said school was dragging Mutombo around by the hand, asking anyone who would listen, "Would you like to meet Deekums? Who wants to meet Deekums?" Like he was some pet or something. That sub-baritone voice was unmistakable.

My parents knew nothing about Georgetown basketball, and neither did I at the time. I thought he was an ambassador or something...

Of course, when he addressed me in fluent French, a part of my world expanded forever.


He actually didn't start playing organized basketball until he arrived at Georgetown as an ESL student, playing intramural ball at the Yates Field House.
posted by piedrasyluz at 7:30 PM on March 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's amazing how completely uncoordinated he looks hitting a golf ball or bowling, and yet he's a basketball superstar. I totally don't get that.
posted by schoolgirl report at 7:51 PM on March 13, 2008

I really want to like the guy, but whenever there's a montage of great NBA moments, they almost always include the shot of Mutombo lying on the court clutching the basketball after upsetting the Sonics in the 94 playoffs.

To everybody else it's a "joy of victory" moment. To a Sonics fans Dikembe Motumbo= the agony of defeat.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:29 PM on March 13, 2008

Billy, I feel your pain. The clip of the N.C. State Wolfpack knocking off my beloved U.H. Cougars in 1983 makes my spleen bleed.

It gets played all the time like it was a GOOD thing!

posted by John Smallberries at 9:13 PM on March 13, 2008

To billyfleetwood and all the other sonics fans: i'm sorry for your loss. well actually for your getting screwed over.
Thought you guys might like this video from deadspin of mutombo's teammates doing impressions of him. Its pretty funny. Sounds like a good and weird teammate.
posted by alkupe at 9:25 PM on March 13, 2008

ok that was stupid. i guess i didn't see it in the post.
posted by alkupe at 9:28 PM on March 13, 2008

I think Mutombo and Cookie Monster should do a duet.
posted by electroboy at 6:38 AM on March 14, 2008

Great post! I'm an NBA fan so it's always nice to see some positive stories about the atheletes.
posted by emd3737 at 7:03 AM on March 14, 2008

I hear he's renting an apartment in Brooklyn, right near the Manhattan Bridge Overpass...
posted by ericbop at 7:21 AM on March 14, 2008

billyfleetwood, most Rockets fans (myself definitely included) are eminently aware that the only reason we won the championship that year was because we didn't have to face the Sonics (4-16 against them from '92-'96, and 3-8 in the playoffs, including five straight series losses between '82 and '96). I still have a vivid recollection of the image you describe (Dikembe lying on the floor, clutching the ball overhead, camera sideways), realizing at that point that given the way The Dream was playing, it was the year we could finally win it all.

And I feel your pain, smallberries -- reliving the horror of that moment every March for the rest of my life is the worst part about March Madness. Stupid crappy Jim Valvano.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 8:18 AM on March 14, 2008

He's tough. I remember him playing with a mouth full blood after getting repeatedly elbowed in the face by Shaquille O'Neil during the 2001 NBA Finals.
(Foul on Mutombo for getting his mouth in the way, of course. Shaq never gets offensive fouls. It's like when Mike Bibby got a foul for being elbowed in the face by Kobe Bryant.)
posted by kirkaracha at 11:15 AM on March 14, 2008

Guy speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and five African languages, yow. And I didn’t know about his charity work....
Jesus, I got to get off my ass or something.

Great stuff. Thanks.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:44 PM on March 14, 2008

I'm not really into basketball anymore, but this was an interesting post about one if its players, thanks.
posted by !Jim at 7:18 PM on March 14, 2008

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