Denver Nuggets A to Z: Dikembe Mutombo

Denver Nuggets A to Z: Dikembe Mutombo

Mt. Mutombo was major obstacle for foes at McNichols Arena
by Aaron Lopez

Man does not fly … in the house of Mutombo.

Those were the only words spoken in the 1992 adidas commercial featuring Denver Nuggets rookie Dikembe Mutombo. They also summed up all you need to know about the shot-blocking center from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As part of a month-long tribute to the most notable and memorable players in franchise history, we are taking a look at the Nuggets from A to Z.

M is for Mt. Mutombo.

From the moment he stepped on the floor for the Nuggets in 1991, Mutombo made it clear that McNichols Arena was a no-fly zone for opponents. He swatted nine shots in his first three NBA games and quickly gained popularity for his signature finger waggle.

In five seasons with the Nuggets from 1991-96, Mutombo blocked a franchise-record 1,486 shots, while averaging a double-double of 12.9 points and 12.3 rebounds.

His seminal moment took place on May 7, 1994, when he blocked eight shots and grabbed 15 rebounds in Denver’s series-clinching victory against the Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The image of Mutombo cradling the ball in the middle of the free throw lane after upsetting Seattle in the first round of the 1994 playoffs remains one of the greatest moments in franchise history. His 31 total blocks against Seattle still stand as the NBA record for a five-games series.

Mutombo returned to Denver last spring to celebrate the 1993-94 team. The Nuggets were the first No. 8 seed in NBA history to upset a No. 1.

Mutombo’s dominance in the paint led to three All-Star appearances with the Nuggets, and he was named the 1994-95 NBA Defensive Player of the year after leading the league in blocked shots (3.91 bpg) and rebounds (12.5 rpg).

Despite playing just five seasons in Denver, Mutombo remains the franchise leader in total blocks and third in total rebounds (4,811). After leaving as a free agent in 1996, he played for Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston before retiring in 2009.

Mutombo joined the NBA league office as a global ambassador and remains an active part of the Basketball Without Borders that grows the game and offers enrichment programs in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

Game to remember, April 18, 1993

Mutombo tied a franchise record with 12 blocked shots as part of a remarkable triple-double that helped the Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 94-83 at McNichols Arena. Mutombo also added 16 points and 21 rebounds. Since 1985-86, he is one of only six players to have at least 15 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a single game.


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