College, NBA / Dec 9, 2009 / 9:42 am

Pound-for-pound crown: Dikembe Mutombo vs. Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning

Whenever somebody asks me how I became a Georgetown Hoyas fan growing up in Seattle, I give them one of three reasons:

1. When I was a kid, U-Dub barely had a basketball team as far as I knew.
2. I didn’t realize G’town wasn’t an HBCU until I was like 12 years old.
3. Joey Brown.

Who is Joey Brown? He was a 5-10 point guard and four-year starter for the Hoyas in the early-’90s. Imagine Earl Watson without the height and you get the picture. Joey Brown was a role player on some G’town teams that never made it past the second round of the NCAA’s, but he embodied everything I was and wanted to be as a ballplayer: short, quick, and a beast on defense.

Most people don’t remember Joey Brown because as soon as he graduated, his PG spot was assumed by a freshman named Allen Iverson. They also don’t remember Joey Brown because he was one of the “other guys” on the court with two of history’s most famous Hoyas, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning.

‘Zo and Deke will always be linked together in the G’town “Big Three” next to Patrick Ewing. They played three years together under John Thompson before Mutombo went pro, winning Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year together when they were sophomores. Mutombo was known for his D; Mourning did a bit of everything. Both were Top-5 draft picks and went on to have similarly successful NBA careers marked by longevity, toughness and humanitarian efforts off the court. But whose career was better?

Mutombo played 18 seasons in the League with six teams, averaging 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He played in one NBA Finals (with the Sixers), and in 101 playoff games posted 9.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 2.4 bpg. Deke won four Defensive Player of the Year awards, and was named to with six All-Defensive, three All-NBA, and eight All-Star teams. He led the League in blocks three times and twice in rebounding, and ranks second all-time in total blocks, 17th in total rebounds, and seventh in blocks per game. His best overall season was probably ’94-95, when he averaged 11.5 points, 12.5 boards, and 3.9 blocks (leading the League), hit 55% from the field, won DPOY and led the Nuggets to the playoffs.

Mourning played 15 years in the League with three teams, averaging 17.1 points, 8.5 boards and 2.8 blocks per game. He won a championship with the ’06 Heat, and in 95 postseason games posted 13.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 2.2 bpg. ‘Zo won DPOY twice, made two All-Defensive and two All-NBA teams, and was a seven-time All Star pick. He led the League in blocks twice, and ranks 10th all-time in blocks and sixth in blocks per game. Mourning’s best overall season was probably the lockout-shortened ’99 campaign, when he put up 20.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg and 3.9 bpg (leading the League), winning DPOY and making the All-NBA First Team.

Those are the numbers. Throwing in whatever else you feel is relevant, pound-for-pound, who had a better career?

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  • Prof. TX

    Scorers are everywhere, but a center should be a good defender. Mourning was good, but Mutombo was better on defense, so Deke gets my vote.

    Close one though.

  • Marian

    Alonzo. In my mind the greatest worrior the game has ever seen.
    Deke was great in is own right, but there never was a more passionate player then Zo.

    For stricktly basketball reasons it has to be Zo too.
    In his prime He was an over 20ppg player as good as mutombo as a shotblocker, a far better one on one defender in the low post(in my opinion the best behind olajuwon in the 90s).

  • Marian

    let me add that for one on one post defense you need footwork, something deke lacked

  • Captain Awesome

    “Who wants to have sex with Dikembe?!”

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    I want to go with Deke so bad…but he never came back from a life threatening illness to contribute…of course, Deke would never whine his way off a bad team…yeah, a big fingerwag at ‘Zo for whining despite his “worrior” mentality…Deke would just smile, play his role and build six more hospitals in Africa with the money he made…Mt Mutumbo–plus he was like 27 when he was a rook–playing til 45 is impressive….

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    Ooooh, this isn’t easy.

    I’d take Mourning though. Not by much. I always thought Zo’s offense (jump hook in the lane after the G-Town travel) was very underrated. His defense at 6’9/6’10 has been phenominal. Deke did the same at 7’2. Zo’s was more impressive to me. Zo, like Deke also battle with some all-time greats and in Zo’s case he has even won a series against one (Ewing).

    Good one DIME…good one.

  • DH

    Are you serious with saying ‘Deke is better? If you want a one dimensional player to help on the weakside, I can see how you’d like him. But look at the stats. They averaged the same number of blocks over their careers but Zo had a gajillion more points plus a chip.

    Not hatin’ on Mutombo, but let’s be serious.

  • DH

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Mt. Mutombo is 4″ taller than Zo and still averaged the same number of blocks.

    PS ~ A more even comparison would be ‘Deke to Ben Wallace. Those two MIRROR each other.

  • JA

    Both great players, but my mind will forever be soured by his refusing to be a man when he failed to report to the Raptors.

  • robmo35

    My major criteria for deciding this is which player did opposing teams have to worry more about? In this case I think that was Zo. Teams had to worry about Deke’s presence in the paint on defense, but not is much on offense. Zo could do serious damage both ways.

  • Marian

    why are people still riding so much on Zo for the raptors thing. dude came from kidney transplant and wnated to play for a contender, which from the pont of view, that your life could be over every day is very understandable.
    Why hatin on him so much.
    nobody say dyess is a pus because he didn’t want to play for the nuggets last year. so many other player demanded trades or got buyouts and nobodys gives a fuck, but in Zo’s case, who had the best reasons for not wasting his time in a rebulding project, everbody tries to make it lessen his legacy.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    You forget that Mutumbo also played in the finals with Jersey against the Spurs

  • Nigel

    I love both of them. Both true warriors of the game. Both played hard every game and showed passion. Both instilled fear for anyone who though of driving to the lane while they stood strong in the paint. Though Deke was decent on offense in his 20’s, Zo had the edge their which makes him slightly the better player. Plus he was 4 inches shorter. And when you think of great centers of the 90’s, Zo’s name comes up despite the leagendary 5 men in that era. Deke is still an afterthought in this category. He was still great though.

    It’s a shame they both ended their careers they way they did. In the same fashion too.

  • Prof. TX

    Defense is hard to measure, and you can’t just do it with blocks. Maybe someone gets two blocks per game, and a good shooter might hit what, 50%? So two blocks translates to maybe preventing two points. It’s not a big deal in the game’s outcome. Guys like Battier and Artest are both good defenders, but not always swatting at the ball. Keeping your man out of his favorite spots and limiting his ability to see the basket are both important skills that don’t have a stat.

  • Russ

    Why has no one mentioned the fact that Zo lost some of the prime years of his career due to his kidney ailment? He may have missed out on another DPOY award.

    He has coming into what may have been his best team with the Heat as they had that offseason where they got Eddie Jones and Brian Grant to surround him with. Having another banger down low would have helped him and another excellent perimeter defender and score on the wing too. It’s a shame that’s when his kidney issues came about.

  • Tom

    When comparing averages, it’s important to consider that Mutombo played longer. His final few seasons, he wasn’t getting very many minutes, which sort of artificially deflates his per-game averages. In his prime, he was undoubtedly a better shot-blocker and rebounder than Mourning in his.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    They both for the same and different reasons are really good centers and comparing them (depending on your reasons) is kinda hard. I mean even off the court you have Zo who had the whole Kidney thing and Deke doing the whole thing for his homeland.

    So both are are awesome in their own rights. Still if I was looking for a more versatile and well rounded center of the two then I have to go with Zo.

    Hoya Saxa!

    Even at Georgetown (Go Hoyas nice win over Butler) I always thought Zo to be the better. I so wish G-Town would get back to being that team known for the Big Man who could ball and it appears with Monroe they are re-establishing that.

    Anyway always been a fan of both and miss both in the game now. I believe both could come back and still teach the young cats A LOT!

  • Ekstor

    Take nothing away from Deke, who was one of the best shot blockers I’ve ever seen… but Zo was a beast and instilled fear in a way that Deke could not! While DWade was rightly the finals MVP the year the Heat won it all, they don’t win it without Zo… he was HUGE on the defensive end.

    As a centerpiece player, Zo falls short, but as a role player… and especially with reduced minutes, he’s a downright terror.

    I still remember his first game with the Hornets after being a hold-out for the start of the season… he fouled out in 16 minutes but still managed 5 blocks in the process… It was like every play he’d either get the block or send you to the line with a big knot on your head! Relentless.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    “It was like every play he’d either get the block or send you to the line with a big knot on your head! Relentless.”

    LMAO, I would love to see a player like Zo come into the league today. The NBA has become so soft. Zo was so fearless, he tried going blow-for-blow with Larry Johnson, who happened to be a former teammate of his a couple years prior. Imagine if that tandom had been able to stay together injury free… They would have gotten a chip.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    I also remember Dikembe’s first encounter with MJ his rookie year. He was the one that Mike told him he’d shoot the FT with his eyes closed and Deke told him “No way”. Mj of course hit it with his eyes shut and told Deke “welcome to the NBA rookie”. Classic shit.

  • lord pancake sauce

    georgetown is not an HBCU

  • lord pancake sauce

    im retarded , you said it wasnt, sorrry


    Blow for Blow with Larry Johnson — 16 punches Threw, Landed ZERO!

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    @Bruce, Yeah I know, that’s why i said TRIED going blow for blow.


    Although G-town is not an HBCU, I can’t name a white guy from any of those (JThompson) teams. Austin Rivers…lol, I know he’s Doc’s son, but he’s damn close.


    Chicagorilla — I didn’t read your previous posts.

    Now that I did, there is no way Zo and GrandMama would have won a chip, injury free or not.

    If Bulls23 didn’t take time off, The Dream would NOT even own rings!

  • the cynic

    Deke. Don’t really care much for the numbers. Both were great players though

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    BRUCE that is 23’s fault and that is a “if”. Bottom line is Dream got rings and that ain’t a if. How you know Jordan wouldn’t have gotten hurt if he didn’t leave, a whole bunch of stuff could have happen to keep 23 from getting them rings.

    Sorry I am a Dream fan.

  • Ekstor

    I’ll concur with Chicagorilla in that prior to the disk injury, LJ was on his way to superstardom. He was a monster down low with great quickness and explosive hops. They also had a young Kendall Gill and a great (albeit undersized) assist man in Muggsy Bogues (one of the best assist-to-TO ratios in the league).

    After LJ’s injury, he still went on to average around 20ppg, but he clearly wasn’t the same player… relying almost completely on his perimeter game (which was quite underrated).

    That said, it would have been difficult to get past MJ’s bulls, but if they were primed, MJ’s Bulls wouldn’t have any easy matchup answers for either Zo or LJ.

  • Ekstor

    If I’m not mistaken, they also had a very underrated SF in Johnny Newman. He was kind of an underachiever but very talented and very capable of big games when needed.

  • Yoshi

    Didnt Dikembe play in the NBA final with New Jersey as well???

    or am I mistaken?

  • http://nbaroundtable.wordpress.com/ Dave

    Mourning had a higher peak but that was short lived (two years) … but Deke was an elite player for longer (11 years vs 8 years).

    It’s pretty much even …

    Hmm, if Alonzo was on those Nuggets, Hawks or Sixers teams instead of Deke would they have been better? Yes, I think so.

    If Mutombo was on those Heat teams instead of Zo, would Miami have been better? Nah, probably not.

    Actually, on second thought, I think you have to go with Alonzo.

  • Alaskanballa

    This one is pretty close. Both guys have been great for the game and gave everything they had to their teams and the community. Both were hard nosed, take no shit players that had a profound impact on the game.

    Ultimately I take Zo….he was clearly more accomplished as an offensive player then Deke and just as good defensively….I don’t see this one being all that close actually when talking basketball only…..Deke was just too limited when his team had the ball