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“His performance was really weak” — when a Hollywood stunt man critiqued Dikembe Mutombo's flopping act against Shaquille O'Neal

The stuntman, who worked with Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, shared his expert criticism of Dikembe Mutombo's performance.
Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal is defended by Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo and Shaquille O'Neal

“Fake it till you make it.” Former Philadelphia 76ers center Dikembe Mutombo was flopping so much against Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal in their 2001 NBA Finals matchup that a Hollywood stuntman noticed and critiqued the center’s acting technique.

You have to sell it

By the end of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, analysts — both armchair and legit — noticed how Mutombo seems to have been flopping all over the place whenever O’Neal backs him up in the post. Eric Cord, a stunt coordinator who has worked with Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger, slammed the Congolese-American’s “performance.”

His performance was really weak. I watched the guy falling back and as a stunt coordinator I would have asked him to redo the shot. I don’t know what the referees were watching,” Cord said, per the Los Angeles Times.

Cord did not just lambast Mutombo’s flopping antics. As a professional stunt man, he offered some critical advice to the center, who had won his fourth Defensive Player of the Year that season. Throwing your body to the ground is just one aspect of the dark arts. Cord suggested that Mutombo should pretend as if he had suffered a concussion.

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A good stunt man would make it look like his shoes were nailed to the floor and then, with chin tucked in, would leap high and as far back as possible with arms and legs waving before landing hard on his back. You have to sell it. This guy was falling back and looking to see what the referee’s reaction was going to be. I would have landed hard on my back and appeared dazed.

War of words

O’Neal averaged a ridiculous 33.0 points and 15.8 rebounds in the 2001 NBA Finals, which included a 44-point, 20-rebound performance in Game 1.

This was peak Shaq that not even a renowned shot-blocker like Mutombo could stop. The man literally looked like a rag-doll whenever O’Neal got the ball deep under the rim. As such, there’s an argument to be made if Mutombo did indeed try to sell the calls or if Shaq was just too powerful.

Nevertheless, O’Neal wasn’t convinced of his brute strength. Note that he fouled out in Game 3 and had trouble managing his fouls throughout the series. He slammed Mutombo and his antics, pointing out that that’s not how a Defensive Player of the Year winner acts.

I didn’t think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like that. It’s a shame that the referees buy into that. I wish he’d stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down. It’s just a shame,” Shaq said.

Deke, for his part, responded: “How am I going to flop if I have stitches in my mouth?

This is a good point. Mutombo ate Shaq’s elbow in Game 2 and received stitches, and couldn’t even speak to the media. This is what usually happened to big men who go up against the Diesel. 

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