Classic card of the week

Dikembe Mutombo, 1992-93 Fleer

I’m sorry -- I know this sounds dorky, but aesthetically, this has to be one of the ugliest series of cards ever made. And within that ugly series, this card may very well be the ugliest of them all. And that is saying a lot.

Imagine that you have absolutely no background in basketball whatsoever. Somebody hands you this card. What would you make of it? Would you enjoy looking at the multitude of flailing arms and assortment of atrocious colors? Would you know what the letters -- written vertically, so as to cause additional confusion for the uninformed -- signified? And if you were somehow able to distinguish that the letters formed the name of the moderately popular Congolese-American professional basketball player Dikembe Mutombo, would you be able to figure out which player featured on the front of this card was him? And let’s say, for arguments sake, that upon further detailed inspection you were able to determine which player was Dikembe Mutombo. Would you then be able to understand why he was wearing a rainbow-themed uniform? Then, after all of this exhaustive research that has caused you to drop out of college and has created a major rift in your most treasured relationships, would you then be able to explain why, in a series of cards that classifies itself as a “Slam Dunk” series, you are left holding a picture of Dikembe Mutombo blocking somebody’s shot?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. Let’s find out the facts:

It only took a year for Dikembe to establish himself as one of the NBA’s most intimidating centers.

Dikembe Mutombo is 7’2” with the wingspan of a football field. He talks like Cookie Monster and he played collegiately for one of the most popular basketball schools in the NCAA. He has 17 elbows. It took him three-and-half seconds to establish himself as one of the NBA’s most intimidating centers.

(By the way, it is not known whether or not, after blocking this feeble Derrick Coleman dunk attempt, Mutombo executed his famous finger wag, in which he awkwardly wags his 3-foot long finger in the direction of the player whose shot he just blocked, as if to say, in a Cookie Monster-type voice, “No thank you, sir! I will not be enjoying your dunk today,” while the other nine players run down the court and continue to play basketball.)

There’s even a song about his shot-block exploits, a reggae tune called, “The Dikembe Block.”

Add this to the list of things I did not know before today. This reminds of the Calhoun Tubbs character from In Living Color: ”Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it go!” Also, I couldn’t resist an attempt to look up additional info on this reggae jam, and while I couldn’t come up with the song in full, I was able to locate this little tidbit:

Hey mom,

I’m assuming they mean “mon.” Unless they are actually singing a song about Dikembe Mutombo’s blocking exploits to their mother, which would be weird.

Have you heard da word?

No! What is da word?

No more flyin like a Bird. No more Mail Delivery. He don’t come into da key.

An obvious swipe at Larry Bird and Karl Malone. Bird himself would return fire -- via John Cougar Mellencamp –- on the dis track entitled “This Is Ouuuuuur Country,” which appeared as a bonus track on Mellencamp’s 36th album. Sample lyric:

A little diddy, ‘bout Dikemebe Mutombo
Ain’t from ‘round here, but he'll foul ya' hard if you go down low
Trying to be a basketball star
But he can put that finger wag back in his cookie jar
Cause a little Birdy, just pooped on his head
This is ouuuuuur country

Did you know?
Upon reading this post, Dikembe Mutombo reveled in the irony that he can speak nine different languages and I have yet to master English. He then finger-wagged in the direction of his computer monitor.