Dikembe Mutombo should have known better.
Since the guy can say, “I love this game” in five languages, you’d think he’d know better than to give the greatest competitor in the history of sports any added motivation. But that’s exactly what he did this past February, when he suggested his Atlanta Hawks could “take care of” the Chicago Bulls come Playoff time. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, that is. And if that weren’t enough, the 7-2 human flyswatter then asked—make that begged—to be thrown down on, proclaiming that Jordan had never dunked on him in his six years in the league.
Bad move, Deke.
Already up three games to one in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, the Bulls are tramplin’ the Hawks in the first half of Game 5, when Jordan decides the game is over. Driving the lane, he threads a sweet pass to power forward Jason Caffey, who blows the short jumper. Luc Longley rebounds. Mike, who has drifted back out to the arc, cuts baseline and gets the no-look bounce. With the path clear, he takes on step and lifts off.
Enter Mount Mutombo. Rushing over from the weak side, the Hawks’ center leaps, his outstretched arm barely getting under and in front of the iron. As Jordan hammers the ball in with his right hand, their bodies collide in mid-air, and the ball skims off Deke’s head. Both land on their feet and stare at each other. Jordan smirks and gives Mutombo a taste of his own waving finger.
The refs hit Mike with a T, but the point had been made. Don’t mess with the best.
“My mind went straight back to the All-Star Weekend when we were joking to each other,” Mike said post-game. “He said I’d never dunked on him, and I said I would get him before I left the game. Tonight was the time for it.”
The dunk gave the Bulls a 52-33 lead. They went on to take the W and the series, rolling towards their fifth Eastern Conference championship in seven years. Hey Dikembe, at least he’ll never get you again, right? Dikembe?