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Dikembe Mutombo feature – Moving mountains

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Wagging The Finger.

Imagine for a second one of your favourite swingmen of all time driving the lane for one of the NBA’s greatest moments in the golden era of the mid-90’s to early new milleniuum. It doesn’t matter about the name on the back of his jersey, but the play that’s about to happen. Imagine how many people will leave their seat and jump into the air for an ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ahh’s’ devastaing dunk. Then imagine for a second what could top that in perfect plays in Baksetball. How about another hand meeting the dunkers outstretched ball, blocking and denying it ferociously to the tune of even more ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ and a slap to not only the ball and dunker, but opposing team and fans. Sure from the greatest defender to ever do it Bill Russell, to the leagues latest and last centre star Dwight Howard and every Ben Wallace in between there has been a lot of brilliant shot blockers who have slapped the high socks and tucked in tails off their marked man, but no one has done it quite like the finger-wagging of legend Dikembe Mutombo. Sure in the Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing and Mouring big-man dominating era of the 90’s, Deke’s offense wasn’t as potent, but the mount was a mountain of defensive strength in his own right able to best any opponent-including them-on the ‘other’ and arguablly first and foremost end of the court.

This defensive specialist, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo (put that on the back of a jersey) was just that big and just that brilliant. An All-Star on defence and with more, underrated shooting skills than given credit for you can put this man in the Hall Of Fame for what he’s done on and off the court. Like a true professional and hero of the game, this man took it beyond Basketball. It was fitting this week-during the NBA’s first ever preseason trip to Manchester that Dikembe was sitting next to England’s national hoops treasure John Amaechi, who broke down ignorance and inequality barriers by announcing he was gay and giving strength and support to Jason Collins amongst others. Mutombo himself has broke down borders himself and lead the way for others including ‘Baby Deke’ Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is showing one of the leauges greatest teams that they didn’t lose their big three when James Harden took his beard to the Rockets. Africa’s Ibaka is flying the flag for his country and with an offensive, sublime skill-set and a forward thinking Mutombo presence on the block of the defensive end you are looking at one of the best all-round players today in the association. Sure he’s underrated but Dikembe knows all about things like that. Besides Mount Mutombo couldn’t be prouder and Serge couldn’t be more inspired. The man who’s finger-wagging, dismissing demeanour on court was off set, by a warm, award-winning smile off it understands real play and real life. The man with the gravely Louis Armstrong voice had all the time in the world for everybody and that’s why everyone has it for him too.

With mere seconds on the shot-clock this was the guy you wanted to clutch plays for when the other team had the ball. Those big hands owned it in the key as he locked up offensive players and repainted plays that looked ran for game-winning success. he blocked everyboy, even avenging the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan’s own finger-wagging in his own right. The Congolese/American gave the great Georgetown university a holy trinity of defining post players alongside Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mouring for a tremendous tradition which will probably never be topped today. Standing at 7 feet 2, the man stood above the rest, 260 pound for pound. His outstretched legs courtside at this weeks Manchester game could trip a referee or even Shaq like Larry David in that episode of ‘Curb’. He even managed to take away some of Shaq and the Lakers enthusiam (fouling the Lakers most dominant out and proclaiming the freinds where “in a war” when Shaq claimed he was flopping in their epic bout) alongside his offensive other-half Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals which proved the most difficult for the storied Shaq/Kobe three-peat Lakers. The four time ‘Defensive Player Of The Year’ has even surpassed all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the all-time block record books, all whilst developing his own little nice, effective sky-hook late in his career.

Behind the only better international centre than him in league history Hakeem Olajuwon in all-time blocks, Deke was an eight time All-Star in his amazing career. Now in his humanitarian work that he started in his career and continues relentlessly to this day, Mutombo can expect all sorts of honours to go along with a certain enshrinment one day. Now who’s ready to carve a 7 plus feet statue, because believe me Mutombo was towered bigger heights than that. If the NBA cares, than Dikembe is the most considerate. Big-men mountains in the NBA weren’t the only thing this man has moved, every hard task to this guy is treated like a mole-hill. The only thing that this guy ever caused controversy about was his age, but you’d have to count the rings in this guy who cut down trees in the forest of the 1990’s big Basketball world. The 4th pick of ’91 draft played for the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets but the somewhat journeyman meant much more to each of his teams than just another big body. Like fellow dominant centre Shaq, who played for six franchise, arguably four of these could lay some claim or rafters to retiring his number 55 jersey, as he cut down first and second five’s and their banner years.

Even an eventual career-ending knee injury couldn’t slow down the 2 time rebounding and 3 time blocks leader that much. It was age that saged this legends playing time really and truly. The beginnings of his Basketball career at college as a Hoya saw him speak little English, but translate perfect play. Originally wanting to be a doctor, a record-setting 12 blocks in one game was for sure the right Basketball prescription. The ‘Rejection Row’ silhouetted section loved the partnership of Alonzo Mourning and D, just imagine if these two towers got it together in the league in their prime and not just in the revolving lockers of their twilighting careers in the retirement suburb of New Jersey (credit to Deke for heading back to the city of New York to defy critics and age). During the halls of his classic collge career, the mount interned for the United States Congress, eventually graduating with bachelor’s degrees in linguistics and diplomacy as he took his on and off court career from Washington to the world. More success was mined for the Nuggets in Denver as Deke’s D could take the wind out of his opponents like the cities high-altitude and playing conditions.

The immediate impact of 16.6 points, (told you about his offensive skill, sometimes plays just have to be run for you) 12.3 rebounds and a rookie All-Star selection confirmed this guy was a worldwide star for this league. In his third year the eight seeded Denver team even upset the first seed Seattle Supersonics, causing devestation and drama like they where the Oklahoma City Thunder. The image of Mutombo lying on court, wearing THAT smile that masked his exhaustion and holding the ball proudly in the air like it was Simba in the Lion King is one of the most enduring and evoking images of the past 20 years of NBA Basketball history and playoff golden moments of all-time. The joy of being the first 8th placed team to do this (and Mutombo’s record 31 blocks in the five game series that truly won everything and everyone over) defined the first half of the first decade of this mans career like the Nuggets did. Still, when he became a free agent after his ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ award, Georgia was on his mind and Atlanta and their five years at the mount Mutombo top defined the second half of the first decaded of his career and his prime time in the NBA. He was about to breakaway like his two handed dunk finishes that his block breaks often started.

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As the Hawks spread their wings across those classic jerseys so did Deke, gripping his denfensive talons to anyone who dared enter the paint, holding up his denying palm, followed by that finger. The confident but humble man was a true professional and his finger-wagging trademark was just a playful hallmark for the carefully, technically selected crowd. Any other arrogant player would have turned it into a middle finger to the oppositiona and league, but the respectable but deserving defensive player earned his right to wag as he proved his point with his play. The ultimate guard, standing tall at the central position the floor owned the hardwood and would have been an even bigger star and name if his Hawks team like his Denver one could just find that success that they are still soaring for today. Still, these singature years where then benchmark of his bold brilliance. A couple more defensive honours came before IBM (yep, that’s how long ago that was) devised a formula in the lockout season to prove he was the leagues most effective player, shutting down everybody on court like the owners where doing on the sidelines.

Block for block, Mutombo was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 for the only guy that could match him on the offensive fly swatting end. As Theo Ratliff took his ATL wings, the only thing Deke took offence at was other players and teams trying to score. Being the perfect defensive compliment and mild-mannered to the wild and wonderful, cultural icon and offensive court jester Allen Iverson, Deke formed a one, two punch with the answer that was the question raising anti-Shaq and Kobe. With Mutombo’s hook, line and two point sinker offensive game being as underrated as A.I’s defensive one, the complete pair where the closest thing to taking it all from the almost unbeatable dynasty making Los Angeles Lakers. Sure it was only one game and Robert Horry-amongst others-helped shoot down any Philadelphia hope, but the team with so much heart did more than just scratch and tarnish the Lakers almost clean sweep to the legends of Larry. As Allen Iverson put an injured and depleted team on his back and took them almost all-the way to the promised land, many forget the backbone of the team that was the mountain top of Mutombo.

Maybe it was this unfair disregard and doubt that led to more trades that saw Dikembe riddled with injury in New Jersey and inconsistent playing time in New York, before being traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he never got the chance to don the Bulls horns. Anyone who wrote off the big, friendly giant and brought the age question to the arena again wasn’t counting on his career resurgance for the recharged Houston Rockets in reply. Backing up, the next big, world opening centre in more ways than one, Mutombo helped propel the Houston Rockets and the career of the great Yao Ming who he helped mentor and mind when Ming’s dynasty took it’s own unexpected injury turn and blow. As the underrated Yao showed in a brief career how great he truly was, Deke showed those fans just how good a Mouring he could have had in the league with Alonzo, as the centre combo of these two international greats became one of the most effective in recent history. His production became even more potent, spelling the injured Yao and meeting that familiar foe, the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, where he put the cap on Kareem’s block record. Kobe-all on his own-had much more to deal with, as the defence of the Rockets (including his future teammate Ron Artest), stalled the Lakers playoff take-off. Deke’s 15 minutes of playing fame average, resulted in 5.3 rebounds and 4 points per that meant so much more than the box-score or critical newspaper headlines read. At 41 years of age, the centre proved he was still worthy of NBA attention like Kelvin Cato, becoming the only man in his age group to record 22 amazing rebounds in a game. A knee injurty put the cap on his career, but going reluctantly into retirement the great still posted nine rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in his last 18 minutes of healthy Basketball.

Still Mt Mutombo left the league with an inspired and influential impression of 2.8 blocks and 10.3 rebounds per game that was anything but average. His long but strong arms whipped anyones wingspan into shape, showing his dwarfed opponents he was anything but the next Manute Bol, his maximised game was anything but minute. Now he may only be blocking cereal boxes from kids shopping carts in commercials when it comes to Basketball, but he’s doing so much off the court in his quote on quote retirement. His humanitarian work in Africa is truly inspired and has given him the honour of the Doctor of Humane Letters. His groundbreaking foundation helps improve the lives of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the ‘Sporting News’ ‘good guy in sports’ continues his countless charity work at home and abroad. The spokesman for CARE and one of the foremost contributors to ‘Basketball Without Borders’ wont stop until his work is done and everyone has the same hope and chance he had. The man has gone just beyond his financial means, helping inspire and influence and even help build hospitals. What is greater than that? Sure this mans playing career was made by what he took away from opponents, but now his life is defined by how much he gives to others. The finger now points to a man that deserves our hand in more ways than one. When it comes to one of the greatest blockers in the NBA ever, you just can’t deny that.

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NBA

New Toronto ‘City’ Jerseys Point North To The 6

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IMG 20180115 092655
Six Flag

Better late and sharp to the party than never looking fly.

Sometimes in the streets of Toronto you just have to wait for a good thing. Like that CN Tower forever in the distance drive from Pearson Airport to the downtown dot. Or waiting for a table and menu for something good to eat at Jack Astor’s on any given night. But Drake always delivers from serving up playlist picks to albums that offer ‘VIEWS’ that honour the great city of the six. So you know if you’re reading this it’s never really too late.

Now after Nike just gave us ‘Association’, ‘Icon’ and real ‘Statement’ jerseys for the new season where they are now the official uniform supplier of this National Basketball Association the ‘City’ line is complete like riding a Matt Bonner tram from King Street West to the Air Canada Center. As Toronto didn’t want to be left out like Kyrie Irving didn’t want to be the next Dwyane Wade. Now the only one rocking sleeves like Adidas is Lakers rook Lonzo again, looking to ball like his UCLA alumni days. Forget Christmas Day, unless you’re rocking Sixers script. As for the 6, the new Toronto Raptors jerseys that go back to black like the late, great Amy Winehouse with Octobers Very Own gold, couldn’t be more Drake or OVO if they had that Owl hooting from the shooting shorts. And you know these third blackouts will be a permanent fixture on ‘Drake Nights’ when the Raps court will be decked out in the black gold same lining.

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But these new duds that All-Star ‘Step Brothers’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will rock like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly did ugly sweater vests are less ‘Hotline Bling’ and more for the town he calls his own for the citizens of Toronto. ‘They The North’ and have that in six court copying chevrons that in glittering gold, road point to this very Canadian NBA destination. Do you see. And if you don’t know, now you know…player.

This is B.I.G. for the notorious north OVO town of the six. We’ve had the ATL neon, Boston parquet, Lakers Black Mamba snakeskin, Cleveland Land, Detroit ‘Motor City’ industry, New York’s F.D.N.Y. department, the Suns not losing the ‘Los’ love and Chicago’s classic city edition. But nothing for the homestand looks as good as this to the T-Dot.

And with all six signs pointing north to Toronto, we only wish these Raptors threads could be put on for the city every night.

Now the only ‘Fallen Kingdom’ in this Jurassic World will be found in cinemas with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeff Goldblum this summer season Blue.

It took a minute for the sap to meet the tree but the Raptors and the Toronto city they call home are far from extinct.

Nike finds a way.

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NBA

The ‘Human Highlight Film’ Dominique Wilkins Almost Made ‘Showtime’ Worthy

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Wilkins
How Unique Would The Lakers Have Been With 'Nique?
Hollywood’s show kept fast break rolling last night like a Golden Globe as the young Lakers finally snapped their losing trend by clipping the Atlanta Hawks, 132-113 at STAPLES. All behind 20 points from Brandon Ingram, 15 and 9 from Julius Randle and 13, 10 and 6 from rookie Lonzo Ball. J.C. with 18 and K.C.P. with 14 also had three three’s each as the Lakers made a sweet 16 season best from downtown, to go along with a franchise record 42 points off fast breaks on a momentous night for the storied franchises record books.
It kind of looks like Showtime’s go on all over again.
But straight from the Fox Sports hole pregame did you know that back in the 80’s day the NBA’s Hall of Fame, Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins was almost drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers to be the centerpiece of Showtime? The Atlanta Hawk legend who has a statue outside the ATL arena like all the Magic, Kareem’s, big fellas and logos outside Lakerland told us himself play-by-play as part of the pregame panel.
“Jerry Buss didn’t want me but Jerry West did”, ‘Nique said with warm affection to what could have been. And we can’t help muse like Shea Serrano’s brilliant ‘Basketball And Other Stories’ book to what legacy and Laker legend would have been like if the Basketball God’s didn’t cast down a thunderbolt. You see apparantly it all came down to an injury to Lakers Celtic bruising forward Mitch Kupchak, which will no doubt leave some Laker fans thinking this may be the first time but not the only time their former G.M. Mitch has messed up things for the Lake Show.
Kupchak’s season crippling injury made Buss want to go bigger and taller. And the rest is Big Game history as the Lakers drafted Wilkins’ fellow North Carolina alumnus James Worthy who made his own H.O.F. career more than just his second name that resides in the forever rafters like 42. The second in goggle command behind Cap remains one of the Lakers and the league as a whole’s most underrated legend.
But we can’t help but think what it would be like if we just looked up at the STAPLES ceiling and saw Dominique’s name up there like Kobe’s too (or two) with his 21 in that acclaimed area. It would have certainly brought more hard-nosed hostility to those Larry Bird fights and more Hollywood to that iconic Slam Dunk Contest between the Human Highlight and the G.O.A.T., M.J. And could you have imagined the Magic between a player who finished his career with Orlando and actually the legendary Boston Celtics and the man with the top hat himself Earvin Johnson? Now you thought watching Lake Show greats A.C. Green and former coach Byron Scott was good.
In the end it was all scripted the right way. The Lakers had their own Big Game dunking James worthy of a King and Dominique Wilkins soared as a Hawk in the A. But if Magic’s all smiling Showtime had a few more Human Highlights for the film? Now that would be something straight out of Hollywood.
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LeBron’s Land Now Has I.T. Support

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Portland Trail Blazers V Cleveland Cavaliers
I.T. Follows All The Kings Men

Cleveland plainly dealed their point prince Kyrie Irving away from the King’s Cavalier land this Summer, to make the NBA’s historical Boston Celtics storied again behind their new superstar handle. And in return they got a glorious gunner with an 80’s iconic name, albeit one hip checked to the new year with injury.

But even if Christmas has come late this year like changing your calendar to 2018, Isaiah Thomas is back like you’ve never seen him before, like a Detroit Piston legend kissing and making up with an 80’s Showtime one in an emotional NBA TV reunion.

Now that’s Magic!

Like Pennywise the clown, injury tempted I.T.’s reign into the gutter for the opening chapter of his story with the King like he was wearing a yellow raincoat. But just wait for part two…it’s about to get slicker as forget arms, Thomas is about to take everyone’s legs off from the ankles up.

He’ll float too.

The land was in need of a hand. One that even the way of Wade couldn’t help after the thorn that went in probably retired, former franchise player Derrick Rose’s side. And now they have it all for one and one for all in I.T.’s support. The King now has a fellow crowning talent ready to hold the throne with. Isaiah Thomas’ return to the trail against Portland was blazing too. Normally a nice 17 points and 3 assists would seem modest for a pocket dynamo of this young Iverson’s stature, but when we answer that it came in just 19 minutes of burn than you know it’s something else altogether.

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It’s the makings of something greater.

But all that failed to blend in Beantown as his reunion with the Celtics he was supposed to retire with and his renewed rivalry with the guard he was traded for was put on a DNP-CD hold (at least he too made up with 80’s great Danny Ainge). But the whole event game of the night turned out to be a wash-out as the Celtics 102-88 scrubbing of the Cavaliers on polished parquet only saw the real rivalry of James (19) and Kyrie (11) amass less than 20 points each when this explosive TNT match-up should have gone 30 for 30 for ESPN.

Still Ohio will rise again when the King and I.T. return to their land and maybe even the promised ones of the NBA Finals. As another Celts/Cavs conference finals match-up without Gordon Hayward and this time more Love could beat towards the heart of a lion. And the five foot something with a headband has plenty of that under his too.

And you best believe tooth and hip surgery nail he’s going to leave it blood, sweat and tears all on the parquet this playoff postseason.

But this time instead of against one, Isaiah won’t just be running alongside a King…he’ll be one.

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