NBA: Dikembe Mutombo’s Hall of Fame Case

Opponents hated it when they saw Dikembe Mutombo wagging his finger after blocking their shot. Over the course of his nineteen-year career, Mutombo did a lot of it to accompany 3,289 blocks (second of all time). He was also Defensive Player of the Year four times (a record). So why does Basketball Reference consider Mutomobo’s chances of getting into the Hall of Fame to be astronomically low? Here is the clear case for Mutombo getting into the Hall.

The defensive player of the decade

Dikembe Mutombo had a run in the 1990s in which he led the league in blocks for five straight years (1993-1998) and led the league in rebound four times (twice overlapping with the most blocks). He was the most imposing presence in the lane for much of the decade, and brought home four Defensive Player of the Year titles (the last in 2001), which was a record that stood until Ben Wallace tied it in 2006.

As BoxScoreGeeks points out, only Michael Jordan (points, steals), Wilt Chamberlain (points, rebounds), and John Stockton (assists, steals) dominated stat categories the way Mutombo dominated rebounds and blocks those years. After all, if these are fundamental stats and defense is half the game, how is it Mutombo’s defensive value doesn’t get its due?

A lack of offense?

Those critical of Mutombo’s Hall of Fame case may cite his lack of scoring production, even though he averaged well over 10 points per game in his prime and 9.4 PPG in his career to go along with the defensive contribution. The Basketball Reference metric determining Hall chances has two elements that work distinctly against Mutombo: height and championship pedigree.

Two of the seven key criteria used for Hall of Fame chances skew against Mutombo, and sharply so. At 7-foot-2, Mutombo possesses exceptional height, while his zero total of championship rings won’t help his cause, either. Statitudes presented much simpler criteria in analyzing Mutombo’s Hall case.

Mutombo has the sixth highest defensive rebound percentage (26.2) in NBA history as well as the ninth-best block percentage (6.3) of all time. In terms of intimidating shooters in the lane and pulling down their misses, few NBA players have ever had the effect Mutombo has, these stats say.

Finger wag ban

There is Fingergate to consider. Dikembe’s wagging irked nough people around the league that NBA officials began slapping Mutombo with a technical foul for the move in the 1990s. It forced the big man to start doing it in the direction of the crowd, which created a charming bond between player and fans at the time. These days, taunting and hanging on the rim after a dunk are such staples of NBA action that Mutombo’s gesture seems quaint at worst. It’s even become a move big men like Serge Ibaka occasionally reference after a block, in tribute to Mutombo.

Dikembe Mutombo was a colossus who ended his career with the second-most blocks ever behind the great Hakeem Olajuwon. Pile his dominance of stat categories for a decade on top of four DPOY trophies, and you have a clear Hall of Fame case. Some say it’s a case for first-ballot entry. Most fans would accept any Hall pass for Mutombo.

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