Mutombo recognized for doing what he does best
Updated: Monday February 12, 2001 8:17 AM
By Marty Burns, Sports Illustrated
"Dikembe, did you feel like Dennis Rodman tonight?" Allen asked in his best TV interviewer's voice.
"No. No. No," Mt. Mutombo erupted in laughter. "I'm no Dennis Rodman. Believe me. We're two different people."
Mutombo might not stay up all night partying, date supermodels, or wear wedding dresses (at least not in public, anyway), but he sure did a Rodman- like job Sunday in helping his Eastern Conference squad to victory.
Added to the All-Star roster as a replacement by NBA commissioner David Stern, Mutombo pulled down 22 rebounds while scoring six points and blocking three shots in just 28 minutes.
He also made arguably the game's single biggest defensive play, denying Lakers guard Kobe Bryant a clean look at the basket on the game's final sequence. Bryant, who had nailed three consecutive shots, wound up pitching the ball to Tim Duncan for a desperation jumper that was blocked by Vince Carter.
"Dikembe was big all night," said Nets guard Stephon Marbury, who was guarding Bryant on the final play. "At the end, we knew Kobe was going to get the ball and that we'd need help. Fortunately, Dikembe was there."
As the only true center on the East roster, the 7-foot Mutombo had to play big for his team to have a chance. When he first entered the game, with 3:42 to play in the first quarter, the taller Western Conference squad had already sprinted to a 22-10 lead. Soon, however, Mutombo was blocking and altering shots -- and helping the East get back in the game.
"He was rebounding the basketball and helping us push the tempo," said Raptors forward Antonio Davis. "Once we started doing that, we started getting easy baskets."
Mutombo's 22 rebounds fell just five short of the All-Star record, set by St. Louis Hawks forward Bob Pettit in 1962. When asked if he knew he was close to setting the record, Mutombo just laughed. "I didn't know until 30 seconds were left," he said. "By then, it was too late."
Mutombo, a free agent after the season, has been the subject of trade rumors all year. While many see his lack of low-post skills and question whether he's worth all the hype, Sunday's performance might make fans in Vancouver, Portland and Phoenix take note.
"He was in there eating up a lot of that glass," noted Spurs forward Tim Duncan. "It'll be interesting to see what he does this summer."
Seated at his locker after the game with an ice pack wrapped around his right knee, Mutombo didn't want to think about 2001-02. He just wanted to sit and joke with the guy at the locker next to him: fellow former Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning, whose illness ironically opened the door for his All-Star selection.
"They were saying, 'It's not a regular game; why are you playing defense like that?'" Mutombo said with a laugh as the two friends celebrated the victory. "I was just playin' 'D' man! That's what I do."
On Sunday, he did it as well as any All-Star ever has. Including Dennis Rodman.