Dikembe Mutombo

And-Ones: Mutombo, Robinson, Gabriel, Bates

Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

“He is receiving the best care possible from a collaborative team of specialists in Atlanta and is in great spirits as he begins treatment,” the league wrote in a statement. “Dikembe and his family ask for privacy during this time so they can focus on his care. They are grateful for your prayers and good wishes.”

Mutombo was an eight-time All-Star and four-time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He played for six teams during a career that stretched from 1991 to 2009 and saw him play until age 42.

In addition to his basketball accomplishments, Mutombo is also well known for his humanitarian efforts. He won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009 and has worked closely with Special Olympics and Basketball Without Borders. His foundation was responsible for building a new hospital that opened in 2007 near his Congolese hometown.

Here are more odds and ends from around the world of basketball:

  • Nate Robinson announced that he’s battling renal kidney failure, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. A three-time winner of the Slam Dunk Contest, the 38-year-old Robinson spent 11 years in the NBA before retiring after the 2015/16 season. “I am currently undergoing treatment for Renal Kidney Failure and have been privately dealing with it for the last four years,” Robinson’s statement read. “I’m sharing this now because I want to be the voice for all those who are having trouble speaking about this illness, and come together for a greater cause – our health. I was never a vocal leader on the court, I preferred to lead by example, but now it’s time for me to speak up and help all those affected by or dealing with Kidney Disease. I am grateful for the care and support I’ve received and continue to receive during this process, and hope through this announcement that I can help others like me.”
  • A trip to South Sudan for a basketball camp this summer has inspired Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel to do more to help his homeland, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Gabriel was overwhelmed by the response from the people he encountered. “I mean a lot of people hold me up high now, trying to be like, ‘This is our child and he made it to the NBA,’” he said. “And I know a lot of people think they can be the next one to make it, too.”
  • Felony charges against Emoni Bates involving a gun-related incident are expected to be dismissed, according to Jeff Borzello and Pete Thamel of ESPN. Bates, who was once considered an elite draft prospect, is now at Eastern Michigan University.

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.

And-Ones: G League, Olympics, NBA Africa, COVID-19

As the league mulls the possibility of a midseason tournament at the NBA level, G League officials are making progress toward finalizing an in-season tournament of their own for the 2021/22 season, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

According to Fischer, the plan is for the G League’s tournament to be an enhanced version of the event that took place at the league’s annual showcase in 2019. Teams would play a series of 12 or 14 round-robin games leading up to the showcase, then the top four teams would compete in a prize-money tournament at the showcase, while the rest of the NBAGL’s clubs participate in the annual event as usual.

The G League is still working to finalize the format and the reward of its potential fall/winter tournament, which would be labeled as some type of “Cup,” sources tell Fischer.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Team USA officials aren’t counting on any players who participate in the NBA Finals – or even the conference finals – to be available for the Tokyo Olympics this summer, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. That means getting commitments from certain players whose teams didn’t make the postseason will be a priority for the program, according to Vardon, who points to Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Pelicans forward Zion Williamson as two top targets for USA Basketball.
  • The NBA has announced the formation of NBA Africa, a new business investment entity that will oversee the league’s business endeavors in Africa, writes Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Former NBA stars such as Dikembe Mutombo and Grant Hill are among the investors, as the league tries to expand its presence in key African markets.
  • While the worst of COVID-19’s impact on the NBA may be in the rear view, the league isn’t taking anything for granted during its non-bubble postseason, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. “We’re optimistic that what we’ve been doing will work, but we certainly can’t relax because it’s the playoffs,” said David Weiss, the NBA’s senior VP of player matters. “We have to emphasize that it’s important to keep following the protocols and getting vaccinated.”

Mutombo’s Group Came Close To Buying Rockets

Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo says the group he assembled came close to matching the record sale price for the Rockets, relays Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston.

Current owner Leslie Alexander agreed on Tuesday to sell the team to Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion, but Mutombo claims he was able to assemble nearly as much cash.

“We did raise a lot of money. I raised close to $2 billion, but we just didn’t get a call, and it happens,” Mutombo said. “I was very happy with myself. I’m not crying for the fact that we didn’t win. I’m more happy that I was able to pull people together who did believe in my vision to put up that much money. I might be disappointed, but I’m not crying. Things happen, and sometimes they happen for a good reason.”

Mutombo, who ended his NBA career with five seasons in Houston, added that he is “happy for Mr. Tilman [Fertitta] and his family.” He said he has known Fertitta for a long time and called him “a great businessman.”

“I think he’s going to follow the spirit of Uncle Les and his vision,” Mutombo said. “I look forward to going to the games and cheering for my Rockets.”

Rockets Notes: Potential Buyers, Carmelo, Williams

Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo is among the potential buyers interested in making a run at the Rockets, as Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston details. While Mutombo won’t be the lead investor in such a bid, he’s in talks with potential partners in the hopes of putting together a prospective ownership group, telling Berman that he’s “trying to convince some people” to get involved.

“I’m working on it,” Mutombo said. “I’m talking to a lot of people already since (Monday). We’ll see. I’m just talking to the people who can cut the check and they can make me be part of it. I’m working on that.”

Mutombo’s name is one that has surfaced as a possible buyer since Monday’s announcement that the Rockets are up for sale, but it’s far from the only one. Here are more items on investors interested in the Rockets, along with a couple other notes on the club:

  • Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who founded Landry’s restaurants and owns multiple hotels and casinos, confirmed he has interest in buying the Rockets, writes Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle. “[I] just hope it doesn’t go for crazy numbers,” Fertitta said. “I’ve never really wanted to own a professional team outside of Houston. Houston is my hometown and the place I would prefer to own a professional team.”
  • Fernando Alfonso III of The Houston Chronicle has the details on another prospective bidder for the Rockets, writing that Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale – the owner of Houston’s Gallery Furniture – has expressed interest in buying the team as part of an investment group. McIngvale confirmed that he has spoken to a few potential partners, adding that “we’ll see where it goes from here.”
  • In his latest piece on the Carmelo Anthony situation, Marc Berman of The New York Post cites a source who says the Knicks have yet to restart trade talks with the Rockets. However, according to Berman, Anthony doesn’t have much interest in meeting with the Knicks’ new management group and trying to bury the hatchet. Anthony’s camp continues to push for a trade to Houston, says Berman.
  • During his introductory press conference as a Clipper, Lou Williams likened his departure from the Rockets to a “bad breakup,” per Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. Williams, traded to the Rockets prior to the deadline, said he enjoyed his time in Houston, but added that “it was short-lived and it really didn’t make a huge impression on my life.”

Hoops Rumors Retro: Dikembe Mutombo to the Sixers

The mandate at Hoops Rumors is to consolidate news from throughout the professional basketball world, but nobody ever specified from which decade. Join us as Austin Kent, a grown man with a binder of 1996/97 NBA trading cards beside his desk, cannonballs down the rabbit hole of nostalgia to give significant trades of yesteryear the modern media treatment.

This isn’t the first time a sassy, seven-foot pillar of physical wonder from Africa has arrived in Philadelphia and immediately upgraded the status of the Sixers’ organization, but while Dikembe Mutombo may not publicly hound Rhianna with the same vigor that Joel Embiid does1, his brief tenure in Pennsylvania does deserve its own small subsection in the Philly basketball history books.

In February of 2001, Allen Iverson’s Sixers were barreling toward the Eastern Conference Championship at a 41-14 clip. Their biggest problem, however – a gigantic Shaquille O’Neal-shaped problem – remained unsolved.

Could the Larry Brown-led ensemble of ragtag supporting cast members in Philadelphia really give the league’s leading scorer and ultimate MVP enough help to actually compete with the Lakers in their bid for a second-straight title? Would it make a difference if you piled George Lynch, Aaron McKie and Tyrone Hill on top of one another, veiled them in a gigantic trench coat and threw them in the low post to defend 28-year-old O’Neal at the height of his prime?

The answer to both is ‘Probably not, but actually, well… I don’t know, maybe’.

Regardless, fate had other plans, and on that February 22, 2001 trade deadline, it commandeered the mind and body of Billy King and made the decision to go big or go home2.

Perhaps it was the untimely wrist injury to 27-year-old defensive anchor Theo Ratliff that compelled Philly to pull the trigger on the deal that would land them a 34-year-old, three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Perhaps it was just growing trepidation that what they had wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the Lakers. Maybe they just couldn’t find a trench coat long enough to cover three professional basketball players without anybody noticing.

What we do know is that the Sixers didn’t want – and possibly couldn’t afford – to take any chances. Not with Ratliff sidelined and question marks surrounding his long-term health. Not with Iverson somehow single-handedly dragging fellow starters Lynch, McKie, and point guard Eric Snow to relevance for the first and only times in their respective careers3.

Alas, with pressure to keep their arguably unsustainable momentum rolling, the Sixers dealt Ratliff, along with Toni Kukoc, Nazr Mohammed and Pepe Sanchez, to Atlanta in exchange for Mutombo and Roshown McLeod.

In Mutombo, the Sixers gained a generational defensive stalwart, somebody with the gravitas to convince Iverson that they were committed to building a winner around him. The best part is that it worked. Sort of. The acquisition helped Philadelphia stave off the best that the Eastern Conference could throw at them, something that even the staunchest critics of the deal would have to agree wasn’t guaranteed.

“My sense is we might not have been able to hold on without Theo,” head coach Brown would tell the Associated Press several weeks after the team completed the trade. “I didn’t expect him to be back and contributing until the playoffs.”

Mutombo averaged 11.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game for the Sixers over the course of the subsequent 26 regular season contests – and while his 2.5 blocks paled in comparison to the 3.7 bar Ratliff had set in the season’s first 50 games – there was finally an established star on the roster to help shoulder some of the pressure otherwise carried by Iverson alone.

In 23 playoff games that year, Mutombo ramped up his averages to 13.9 points, 13.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game, but not even that would be enough. Though Mutombo would respectably claim his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award during that postseason run, the team still couldn’t find a way to slow the 300-plus-pound O’Neal when they eventually encountered him.

En route to his second consecutive Finals MVP, O’Neal overpowered anything Philadelphia decided to throw his way, averaging 33.0 points and 15.8 rebounds per game in the eventual five-game series. Seeing as both O’Neal and Mutombo have since been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, that’s more of a compliment to the former than it is a knock on he latter, but it is kind of both.

Simply put, the peek of the Iverson Era Sixers happend to overlap with O’Neal’s physical prime. That’s not Mutombo’s fault, it’s not Iverson’s fault – it’s not even King’s fault. Just because doubling down on the present didn’t work, doesn’t mean it wasn’t still the best course of action.4

Sure, one need not look far to find Sixers fans griping about King’s decision making while an executive with the organization, but while I won’t defend the fact that Ratliff and Mutombo were literally the only players to be named to an All-Star Game alongside AI during his entire Philadelphia tenure, the deal that yielded Mutombo can’t be judged too harshly.

Hindsight reveals that the blockbuster deal didn’t deliver the result that Sixers fans wanted at the time – and, granted, it may have hamstringed them down the road – but hindsight also tells us that Ratliff was never quite the same player after the deal as he was before. In fact, when you consider that Mutombo was promptly unloaded to the Nets when the Sixers started trending downward the following season5, all hindsight really tells us is that Shaquille O’Neal was a destroyer of worlds who feasted on the souls of any who dared to oppose him, striking fear in the hearts of Eastern Conference executives whose only conceivable response was to desperately acquire Dikembe Mutombo and hope for the best.

This is nothing that we couldn’t have guessed at the time.

In that spring of 2001, the Hawks were in no position to contend in the Eastern Conference and Mutombo was a pending free agent, anyway. For Atlanta, the move was a no-brainer. In reality, the decision to move their cornerstone effectively served as a symbolic end to the era in which he and Steve Smith combined to position the team as fringe contenders year-in and year-out6.

As a result, the Hawks team that Ratliff would join was a dismal one led by a 23-year-old Jason Terry and, although it would eventually feature an impressive-sounding frontcourt of Ratliff, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Glenn Robinson two seasons later, nothing would ever come of it. The Hawks franchise wouldn’t win more than 35 games until Joe Johnson and Josh Smith led them to the postseason in 20087.

With little incentive to rush back, Ratliff didn’t return from his wrist injury during that 2000-01 campaign, suggesting that Brown’s concern over Ratliff’s health was eerily well-placed. The next season, his first full one in Atlanta, a hip injury sidelined the big man for all but three games and he would never go on to average more than 8.7 points again for the remaining 10 years of his career8.

More impactful during his stint with the Hawks was Toni Kukoc. Despite that or perhaps because he joined a team whose only real offensive weapon was a diminutive second-year guard named Jet, Kukoc came alive in Atlanta, showcasing his versatility and the potential to lead an offense that he had occasionally shown flashes of with the historic Bulls several years prior.

In 17 games with his new team, an admittedly bitter Kukoc averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game – not bad for a 32-year-old after two underwhelming half seasons in Philadelphia. He didn’t quite match those numbers the following year as the Hawks wisely set about rebuilding and brought in Georgia native Abdur-Rahim to be their focal point, but it was an entertaining taste of what the international star could have been producing all along had he originally landed in a different situation than with Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson and the Bulls.

Of course history won’t remember Kukoc’s brief dalliance with greatness during his 14 starts as a Hawk back in 2001 or Ratliff’s admirable attempts to re-establish himself as a defensive anchor in the early aughts. It won’t even remember that King and the Sixers quickly cut their losses and got at least something out of Mutombo before the sun finally set on Iverson’s time with the franchise in 2006.

No, all history will remember about this trade is the beloved, larger than life, physical powerhouse that arrived in Philadelphia one day, a highly acclaimed fan favorite charged with the unenviable task of leading the Sixers to the next level.

Sound familiar?

At least this time around Shaquille O’Neal isn’t here to ruin this outcome.


  1. But just imagine if he did…
  2. I have no such logical explanation for other Billy King decisions.
  3. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about your ’95 All-Star nod, T-Hill.
  4. For all we know King could have stood pat at the deadline only to watch the Sixers slide out of pole position in the East, ultimately get dumped in the first-round by a healthier team, exacerbating the rift between Iverson and the team brass, eventually catalyzing their star’s exit from Philadelphia. Way to go, Hypothetical Billy King.
  5. New Jersey’s hasty reaction to their own merciless beat-down at the hands of the Lakers in 2002.
  6. Underrated Fun Fact #567: Pearl Jam briefly operated under the band name Mookie Blaylock.
  7. The 2007 Hawks have a standing reservation on my Maybe Not Necessarily Dominate, But Definitely Awesome Top Ten List.
  8. Although in 2003-04, he would go on to play in 85 games. A product of another mid-season deal, this time to the Trail Blazers.

Hoops Rumors Retro is a weekly feature. Be sure to follow and get at Austin Kent (@AustinKent) with suggestions for future pieces.

Jan. 14, 2017 – Penny Hardaway to the Suns.
Jan. 7, 2017 – Gary Payton to the Bucks.

And-Ones: Kobe, Lottery, Bosh, Hawks

Henry Abbott of ESPN The Magazine hears from agents and team sources who say Kobe Bryant‘s rough-edged personality is driving free agents away from the Lakers. The Buss family receives more income from the team’s local TV deal if ratings are better, and that helped persuade the team to sign Bryant to his lucrative two-year extension 12 months ago and to eschew an aggressive rebuilding project, Abbott hears. Bryant’s popularity with powerful front-row celebrities also played a role, and co-owner Jim Buss is just “waiting for [Bryant] to leave,” a source tells Abbott, fearful of engaging in a public spat with the superstar. Steve Nash nearly decided against approving his sign-and-trade to the Lakers and Paul George signed his extension with the Pacers in part because of Bryant, sources tell Abbott. Chris Bosh was one of the Lakers’ missed free agent targets this summer, and there’s more on him amid the latest from around the league:

  • The Thunder will join the Sixers in voting against the changes to the lottery, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, but Wojnarowski seconds Lowe’s report (below) that the measure still has enough support to pass.

Earlier updates:

  • Bosh spoke of a desire to be paid at his full market rate as he explained his decision to turn down a four-year max deal from the Rockets for five years at the max from the Heat to Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. “It’s always business,” Bosh said. “Nothing is ever personal. I think 100% of those dudes would have taken the deal I took.”
  • Another NBA team has joined the Sixers in opposition to the league’s lottery reform proposal as the Board of Governors meet today, but the measure is still expected to receive approval, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reports (Twitter links).
  • Players union secretary-treasurer James Jones is an opponent of shortening games and believes, as teammate LeBron James does, that players would instead like to see fewer games on the schedule, as Jones tells Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
  • Former Hawks All-Star Dikembe Mutombo has met with a group of investors about joining their effort to buy the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.