Search

Larger Than Life

May 04, 2009
May 04, 2009

Table of Contents
May 4, 2009

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NBA PLAYOFFS
  • The first-round series between Boston and Chicago proved to be a first-class fight as the upstart Bulls played without fear and the Celtics struggled to mount a title defense with one superstar very notably absent

BASEBALL
PRO FOOTBALL
NHL PLAYOFFS
  • The Canucks' Daniel and Henrik Sedin are beyond symbiotic: They skate on the same line, score the same number of points and play identity tricks on refs. They're also in the second round, so who cares if their coach can't tell them apart?

SURFING
Departments

Larger Than Life

Dikembe Mutombo was a big, bad shot blocker with a huge heart

Dikembe Mutombo made his retirement official last week after rupturing a tendon in his left knee while tangling with Portland Trail Blazers rookie Greg Oden. But the 42-year-old center already knew the end was near. "Aaron Brooks was six years old when I came in the league, Chuck Hayes was eight," Mutombo said of his young Houston Rockets teammates. "I played against Patrick [Ewing], then I was still playing when his son made the league. That tells [me], Deke, it is time for you to check out."

This is an article from the May 4, 2009 issue

In 18 NBA seasons with six teams, Mutombo was a four-time defensive player of the year who famously wagged his long index finger at drivers who dared to attack his basket. He finished second in league history with 3,289 blocked shots (behind the 3,830 of another former Rocket, Hakeem Olajuwon) while earning eight All-Star invitations despite an anemic career average of 9.8 points per game. Houston re-signed him in January not for his dwindling skills—he totaled 114 minutes this season—but for his charismatic leadership in the locker room, where Mutombo worked to help transform the injured Rockets into a serious contender.

As intimidating as the 7'2" Mutombo can be, he possesses one of the league's warmest, not to mention most enormous, smiles. And he has captivated teammates and fans with a deep, raspy voice that rises and falls like notes from a trumpet. Last week he became the first two-time winner of the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, in recognition of his tireless work (not to mention the $18 million he has donated) to build and maintain the hospital he opened in 2007 in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. The NBA has lost one of its most distinctive and distinguished personalities, but Mutombo's commitment to charitable ventures will keep him relevant for years to come.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

A Florida police officer and high school jayvee football coach was charged with allegedly biting one of his players on the nose to motivate him.

PHOTODAVID ZALUBOWSKI/AP (MUTOMBO)HAPPY TRAILS Mutombo played just nine games in his final NBA season.