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Old 02-13-13, 11:06 PM
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b1gdon b1gdon is offline
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Keltner List: Dikembe Mutombo

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in basketball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in basketball?

No on both counts.

2. Was he the best player on his team?

Mutombo was the best player on the Nuggets teams of the early 1990's, and I would also classify him as the best player on the Hawks teams of the late 1990's, although some people might go with Steve Smith. In Philadelphia he played second fiddle to Allen Iverson, and after his days with the 76ers he was mainly a role player (albeit a very productive one).

3. Was he the best player in basketball at his position?

Mutmobo's career overlapped the careers of centers like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Shaquille O'Neal, so the answer is no.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of NBA Finals or Conference Finals?

No. Mutombo played on two teams that advanced to the NBA Finals, the 2000-01 76ers (lost to the Lakers in five games) and the 2002-03 Nets (lost to the Spurs in six games), although he was just a bit player on that Nets team. In all fairness, though, the 2000-01 76ers probably would not have advanced to the Finals without Mutombo, who was a late season acquisition from the Hawks.

5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?

Mutombo was an effective player into his 40's, so the answer is definitely yes.

6. Is he the very best (eligible) basketball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?

Mutombo is not yet eligible, so right now this question is moot.

7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?

Mutombo has 115.6 career Win Shares. There are six former players who have a career Win Shares total between 110 and 120: George Gervin, Horace Grant, Kevin McHale, Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, and Dominique Wilkins. Exactly half of these players (Gervin, McHale, and Wilkins) are in the Hall of Fame.

8. Do the player's numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?

Mutombo's Hall of Fame probability is very low (0.006). Why? He didn't do the things that the Hall of Fame voters seem to focus on. In particular, his career scoring average was very low (9.8 points per game), he received almost no MVP consideration (see #11 below), and he never played for a championship team.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?

Yes, and this is where Mutombo's case can best be made. Traditional statistics are inadequate, at best, for evaluating defense, and defense was Mutombo's calling card. First, let's look at the qualitative evidence. Mutombo was named Defensive Player of the Year four times, tied for the most in NBA history (with Ben Wallace), and he was also named to six All-Defensive teams (three 1st team, three 2nd team). Examining some more advanced defensive statistics, Mutombo's career defensive rebound percentage of 26.2% is the 7th-best in NBA history (since 1973-74); his block percentage of 6.3% is the 9th-best (since 1973-74); and he has 67.9 Defensive Win Shares, 9th-most in league history (since 1973-74). Both the qualitative and quantitative evidence suggest that Mutombo was one of the premier defenders of his time.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Mutombo is not yet eligible, so right now this question is moot.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?

The only season in which Mutombo received any MVP consideration was 1996-97, and that year he had a mere four points in the voting.

12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?

Mutombo was selected to play in eight All-Star games, a very respectable total. Six former players have appeared in exactly eight All-Star games: Rick Barry, Dave DeBusschere, Alex English, Larry Foust, Bob Lanier, and Bill Sharman. All but Foust are in the Hall of Fame.

13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win an NBA title?

It's unlikely. Mutombo was arguably the best player on five playoff teams in the 1990's, and none of them advanced past the second round of the playoffs.

14. What impact did the player have on basketball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way? Was his college and/or international career especially noteworthy?

Mutombo was a very good college player, although his collegiate career was not especially noteworthy. On the court, Mutombo's famous "finger wag" after blocking an opponent's shot was banned in 1999 following complaints from other coaches and players, although eventually the NBA relented and allowed Mutombo to do it as long as he did not wag his finger in an opponent's face. Off the court, Mutombo has been involved in numerous humanitarian efforts to aid his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Verdict:

Mutombo is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the finest defensive players of his generation and, while never being a high volume scorer, was also a very efficient offensive player.
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