Not every retired NBA player can be associated with the word ‘legend.’ However, Dikembe Mutombo can. The former player turned humanitarian revealed how the game has changed over time and he praised today’s stars!
When you think of Dikembe Mutombo, 51, the words, extraordinary, legendary, iconic, and brilliant come to mind. He’s broken records that only some can achieve in their wildest dreams. Not to mention, he’s an 8-time NBA All-Star and and a Basketball Hall of Famer, but, who’s counting? Hailing in at 7 ft 2 in., I requested to conduct our interview — at the Mobil 1 Annual Protection: “The Drive” event in NYC — on a couch I spotted, nearby. Full disclosure, Mutombo laughed when he walked in, as he playfully looked over me. But, I didn’t think he was playing… that’s how tall he truly is.
After we got over the excessive height difference, the now NBA Global Ambassador and I hit a series of topics, some of which included, the league’s recent trade news, his career as one of the greatest defensive players to ever touch a basketball, and his recent inquiry to obtain ownership of the Houston Rockets. And, with that, came Mutombo’s take on Chris Paul‘s trade to his [Mutombo’s] former team.
We started with the basics. I asked him to describe, in his own words, what a legend, aka himself, is. “It’s someone who’s played the game and they’ve accomplished something. Maybe I played the game too long,” a humble Mutombo joked, adding his signature, “No, No, No.” He became serious and proudly admitted that he has accomplished a lot. “I was able to play the game for 18 years and break all kinds of records. I went on to be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “To be one of the greatest defenders to ever play this game, I think that’s where I’ve been fortunate. I’m so happy with my career.”
After reflecting on his 18-year NBA history, he explained how the game is different in today’s age, as opposed to when he was blocking shots. “Today, guys are being prevented from coming to the basket,” Mutombo admitted. “And, the game may be different because everybody’s shooting from the outside.” Although basketball may be played a bit different now, the retired star hasn’t let go of the league. If anything, he’s more involved than ever before, as a global ambassador, leading successful humanitarian projects.
“I represent our NBA family and help to grow the game worldwide,” Mutombo proudly shared. “I travel all over the world to make sure the game is growing. Our goal is to build basketball courts around the world, libraries, schools, whatever it takes to keep growing. We are so much further ahead than anybody and we are very happy with our results.”
Speaking of working within the league, we had to ask about the status of the Rockets ex-center, actually owning the team. “I’m working on it,” Mutombo, who spent his last six seasons with the team before retiring in 2009, said. “I think we’re getting closer. We’re making a lot of progress.” As for his objective if he were to obtain the Rockets? — “I just want to do something special and follow in the footsteps of Magic Johnson, 58, Michael Jordan, 54, and some of those guys who came before me. I really want to be able to have my name somewhere, where people will one day say, ‘He’s the first African to have a stake in one of the top American professional leagues.’ And, if it’s not me, maybe my children. I want to bring together the most dominant team by putting the best guys together.”
And, it may just be the perfect fit, since Mutombo is a fan of Chris Paul and James Harden, 28, on the same team. “It’s going to be great,” he said of the Rockets roster shake-up. However, there’s one thing the Houston may need to work on. “Who’s going to shoot and who’s going to pass the ball [laughs]?” he quipped. “We’ll see when the season starts.”
Adding to his list of standout players, Mutombo has nothing but high praise for Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, 23. In fact, Mutombo may just be his biggest fan, ever. “I think he’s better than me at this age.. if he can play a full season,” the veteran said. “Embiid could be much better than me if he can play a full season. I love his game. He’s an incredible young man; not because he’s from Africa [laughs], but as a basketball player. I think that kid has a great work ethic, which is good. He kind of reminds me of myself. He’s hungry, he wants to win and succeed. But, his body won’t allow him to play. So, we have to play for him.”
Mutombo named another favorite of his — Utah Jazz’s French center. “I like [Rudy] Gobert. He’s also really good. He can block shots like me.” Then, he ended his praise with a bold statement: “Gobert reminds me of myself a lot… a young Mutombo.” You hear that, Gobert?
As mentioned above, Mutombo teamed up with Mobil 1, the official oil of NASCAR. However, he wasn’t alone. The NBA star was joined by Kevin Harvick, 41, to unveil the brand’s newest Annual Protection product, which guarantees protections to your engine for one full year. Yes, you only have to change your oil one time over a 365 day period. And, with the event, came some friend competition. Mutombo and Harvick went one-on-one and Mutombo dunked on him!
But, I guess I wasn’t surprised after he told me that he works out 5 days of the week. “Only two hours a day in the gym, 5 days per week.” Only? — “I work out in the morning, 6-8 AM. I do an hour of cardio, then weight lifting.” And, if you thought basketball was part of his cardio, then you were very wrong. “I don’t play ball much,” he admitted. “I only play ball when somebody challenges me.” Well, it looked like Harvick did… and, he got dunked on. Watch the epic moment, below!
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