The Congolese Dikembe Mutombo, one of the best defenders in the history of the NBA, of which he played two finals with the Sixers and the Nets, is suffering from a brain tumor at the age of 56, announced Saturday the North American league of basket ball.
“NBA Global Ambassador and Hall of Fame member Dikembe Mutombo is currently undergoing treatment for a brain tumor,” the statement said, adding that he “is receiving the best care possible from ‘a team of specialists from Atlanta’.
“Dikembe, as well as his family, ask to respect his privacy during this time, so that he can focus on his care,” concludes the NBA.
The best blocker in history or almost
His boss Adam Silver hastened to send a message of support – « All our thoughts and prayers go to Dikembe, one of the great humanitarians of our world » – to the one who is involved in many charitable actions.
Quadruple best defender in the league in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001 (a record he shares with former Pistons Ben Wallace), Mutombo has been one of the most deterrent players the NBA has ever known.
Born in Kinshasa in 1966, he mastered, from the height of his 2.18 m, the art of counter like few and had even made it his signature, with the « Mutombo Finger Wag », this way of waving the left finger right in front of the opponent, when he had just made a success of it, to tell him “not in my house” (“not at home”).
With 3,289 blocks inflicted, he is the second best blocker in history, behind the legendary Hakeem Olajuwon. With the Nigerian, they were the first two African representatives to win in the best championship in the world, paving the way for other talents, from the Sudanese Luol Dieng to the Cameroonian (since naturalized French and American) Joël Embiid.
Eight times selected to the All-Star Game, top rebounder in the 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 regular seasons, Mutombo began his career in Denver, which drafted him in 4th position in 1991. In 1996, he took over the management of Atlanta, before moving to Philadelphia in 2000.
Two NBA Finals lost against the Lakers
Nine months later, alongside star Allen Iverson, he played in his first NBA Finals, eventually losing to the Lakers of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The second in 2003 will also be a failure, in the jersey of the New Jersey Nets this time, still against Los Angeles.
After a season in New York, which began its decline, he ended his career in Houston in 2009, during which he compiled 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks on average.
The emotion quickly won the microcosm of the NBA after the announcement of his illness. « Please keep Dikembe and the Mutombo family in your prayers, » tweeted former Knicks icon Patrick Ewing, with whom they fought fierce battles in the 1990s. fast, dear Dikembe. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family,” former Spanish star Pau Gasol wrote.