YOU probably remember Dikemebe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning for their shot blocking and defensive prowess throughout their successful run during the 90’s. For a period of time in the late 20th century the two dominant big men traded Defensive Player of the Year awards, led the league in blocks and were at the peak of their powers. Injuries and some team inconsistencies plagued what was otherwise two impressive resumes, but who’s was better?
THERE was only one championship won between the pair, but there were plenty of playoff successes and heroics in between. Mourning was able to win a ring in Miami in ’06, but Mutombo managed to also visit the Finals with Philadelphia in ’01. While it may seem like Mourning is the obvious winner here thanks to his championship he actually had worse averages come playoff time, but Mutombo slightly dipped in productivity too. You could couple Mourning’s playoff success to his better teammates (Tim, Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, Larry Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal), but it wasn’t like Mutombo played with scrubs (Allen Iverson, McGrady and Steve Smith in his prime) and Mourning more than shouldered his portion of the workload during the Hornets first playoff successes early in his career.
Edge: Mourning. Just
ALONZO Mourning managed to put up over 17 points a game in his career, which almost doubles Dikembe’s career output on offense. Throughout his time in the league Mutombo only managed to average over 15 points a game for one season. Mourning did this for his first eight straight years to start his NBA career. I can continue to break it down but it’s pretty obvious that Mourning was a better offensive player.
YOU would think that Mutombo wins this section hands down thanks to his shot blocking and DPOY awards (Defensive Player of the Year), yet the argument is a lot closer than you may think. Dikembe is widely recognised as one of the greatest defensive big men to play, but they both hold a career average of 2.8 blocks a night, a fact that sometimes surprises fans. What may also surprise fans is that over a five year stretch either Mutombo or Mourning was the DPOY with Dikembe winning in ’97, ’98 and ’01, while Mourning won a pair of awards in ’99 & ’00. Mutombo however did win the award in ’95 and beat ‘Zo out in the rebounds category with regularity. It is also worth mentioning that Mutombo’s career block tally (3289) is nearly 1000 more than Mourning (2356).
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MUTOMBO – Let’s be honest though Mutombo should win based on this story alone, however we are valuing the pair as basketballers. His iconic finger wave can’t really qualify as a certain moment, but the 1994 playoffs can. He set the record for the most blocks in a five game series against Seattle (32) and followed it up by setting the record for most blocks in a seven game series against the Jazz (38). That first series against Seattle is the series everyone will remember Mutombo from though. After falling down 0-2 he led Denver back to record a 3-2 victory, including back-to-back overtime victories to close out the series. What was impressive about it? It was the first time a #8 seed (his 42-40 Denver Nuggets) defeated a #1 seed (the 63-19 Seattle Supersonics).
MOURNING – While coming back from a kidney transplant to win a chip with Miami in ’06 is pretty epic, Zo’s finest moment came early on his career, during his rookie season to be exact. His first year in the league coincided with the Hornets first playoff berth squaring off against the favoured Boston Celtics in the first round. Holding a 2-1 lead in the series, Game 4 came down to the last possession and as Mourning famously drained a jumper from the top of the key, he eliminated the Celtics and handed the Hornets their first playoff series win in franchise history.
Both moments are iconic moments in NBA history and it’s tough to separate the two. The edge goes to Mourning here though, upsetting the Supersonics was more of a team achievement from Mutombo’s perspective and not many former players can say they were solely responsible for a franchises first playoff series win.
Edge: Mourning. Just
AS touched upon earlier both of these guys were elite defenders and that field is where a lot of their awards and recognition came from too. Mourning was selected to two All Defensive 1st teams, and Mutombo made three. However, Mutombo also made the All Defensive 2nd team three teams, giving him six all defense selections in total, as well as winning four Defensive Player of the Year awards to Mourning’s two. They both made plenty of All-Star appearances as well (seven for Mourning, eight for Mutombo), but the defensive awards give Mutomobo the win here.
IT may be impossible to measure the impact that Dikembe Mutombo has had on the game of basketball. Hailing from Congo he is a well-known humanitarian worker and has twice won the leagues Citizenship of the Year award. Mutombo helped expand the NBA to African countries not only through his playing success, but his many charitable organisations and endeavours. Mourning has done plenty of charity work himself, pairing with other professional American athletes to involves others in charity work and inspire others to volunteer their time and resources for the greater good of others. On the court both were able to impact the game in a profound way early in their careers, but Mutombo’s defensive prowess and shot blocking ability (2nd highest career block tally) is far and away the highest impacting factor either of these two had.
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VERDICT – DIKEMBE MUTOMBO
ANOTHER compare the pair that ends in an appropriate 3-3 tie as tribute to two legends. Alonzo Mourning is consistently under appreciated and had a stellar career, but he was helped by playing on some quality teams. Take nothing away from him offensively, as he comprehensively beats Mutombo in that regard, but it is impossible to not give the edge to Mutombo though, purely based on the impact he had on the game of basketball. A cultural ambassador for basketball throughout Africa, Mutombo’s play was able to expand the NBA’s global audience, while we witnessed one of the greatest defensive careers unfold in the process. Both had careers in a similar time period and of similar length and looking overall at their awards, impact, success and basketball career the verdict goes the way of Dikembe Mutombo.
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