With 3,289 blocks in his career, 8-time NBA All-Star Dikembe Mutombo is the second all-time leader in blocked shots only behind Hakeem Olajuwon. Mount Mutombo’ was one of the most prolific big men in recent NBA history, primarily because of his dominance on defense. On top of his achievements as a player, he popularized the finger wag as one of the most recognizable signature moves on the court after blocking a shot attempt.
In a recent interview for the Knuckleheads podcast, Mutombo explained the origin of his famous signature move. When he first came into the league, he had a totally different way of expressing himself after blocking a shot attempt.
When I came into the league, I knew I was a different force because of the way I was approaching the game every given night. The purpose was to stop anybody that was coming to the basket, and my mission was to win.Dikembe Mutombo, via Knuckleheads Podcast
After other players realized he wasn’t afraid to challenge them at the rim, everybody wanted to get a piece of Mutombo in any given game. He earned the reputation of a great shot blocker, which made it even more compelling for other players to put him on a poster.
And any time I would block shots, people would still be coming and trying to put a little bit on me. Then I used to shake my head every time I would block the shot. Then I said, man f**k this! Those guys are not listening to me. Maybe if I start giving them the finger wag. And I tell you what, I lost a lot of money because of that finger wag, man. I got so many technical fouls, but no referee would kick me out of the game.Dikembe Mutombo, via Knuckleheads Podcast
Even though Mutombo’s finger wag was famous among NBA fans and even some players, the league had a big problem because it presented a taunting move for them. According to Mutombo, he had multiple issues with the NBA, after which they pretty much banned it from the league.
The league tried to baned it. As a matter of fact, they did ban it, but I didn’t stop. I was getting a call all the time with the commissioner, David. A couple of years later, he was like, you know what, forget about it, you just keep doing it.Dikembe Mutombo, via Knuckleheads Podcast