Dikembe Mutombo weighs in on Michael Phelps using his finger wag
Two of the most memorable moments from this summer’s Olympics have one surprising thing in common: A finger wag.
The first came in the midst of a heated back-and-forth between American swimmer Lilly King and her Russian rival Yulia Efimova in the 100m butterfly. The second, when Michael Phelps beat his hated rival Chad Le Clos in the 200m butterfly.
The two moments were seminal, signature events from Rio, ones that we’ll remember long after these games end. And whether the two swimmers fully realized it or not, in wagging the finger, they honored a different athlete from a different sport altogether: Dikembe Mutombo.
Mutombo, the Basketball Hall of Famer and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year was asked about the two swimmers stealing his move by For The Win managing editor Nina Mandell on Friday. And he didn’t seem to mind at all.
“Copying my move, it really doesn’t bother me,” Mutombo said with a laugh. “As long as they recognize who they got it from.”
According to For The Win, Mutombo was actually forwarded the clips of King and Phelps using the finger wag while traveling, and as you can tell, seemed to get a great delight out of it.
He also got a great delight when learning the back-story on the rivalry between King and Efimova.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, back in 2013 Efimova was banned for 16 months for using performance-enhancing drugs, and then tested positive again earlier this year, causing her to be suspended prior to the Olympic games. She won a surprising last minute appeal just days before the competition, and was allowed to swim in Rio. After winning a semifinal heat, it was actually Efimova who broke out the finger wag. King could then be seen on camera making the same finger wag as if to say “who does this girl think she is?”
That’s also what made King’s victory -- and the back story behind it -- so much better.
“I care more about who’s the best, who’s the best in the game, who’s the best in the competition,” Mutombo said. “… I did it because I believed I was the best in the game. Nobody else could block a shot better than me, no one could dunk on me.”
And nobody could wag a finger quite like Mutombo either.
At least until these Olympics.