Mutombo back in limelight with commercial

Dikembe Mutombo is back – wagging finger and all.

The former Hawks center and humanitarian returned to the public eye when he appeared in a commercial for insurance company GEICO that debuted during the Super Bowl. Now, Mutombo says he rarely goes anywhere without someone wanting to talk about the spot.

“I think after being off the basketball court for a while, being seen on TV doing something that the fans admire so much with your style of play and signature,” Mutombo said on the reason for the commercial’s popularity. “I think it brought so many great memories to the fans. It also gave me great exposure for me and also for my foundation. Interest in the foundation had been waning. The hospital has been built.

“I thank God for it.”

Nearly a month after the debut, Mutombo said he was stopped four times in airports last week by fans still enamored with his performance.

The commercial shows Mutombo, the second all-time shot-blocker in NBA history, dressed in a red uniform with his No. 55. He blocks an office working throwing away a piece of paper, a women taking clean laundry out of a washing machine, a driver at a toll booth, a man throwing away a coffee filter and a child getting a box of cereal in the grocery store. Each time he taunts the rejected with a wagging finger and deep-voiced laugh. Finally, he knocks the G off GEICO as two announcers say those saving money with the company are “happier than Dikembe Mutombo blocking a shot.”

Mutombo was approached by a representative of the insurance company and agreed to take part. He went to Los Angeles in December for a 13-hour shooting day done at four locations. After several hours of filming, everything was packed up and moved to the next site.

Despite his inquiries on shooting day as to when the spot might run, Mutombo was caught by surprise when the commercial was shown during the Super Bowl this month. Mutombo was in PyeongChang, South Korea at the Special Olympic Winter Games when he started receiving notices.

“I get text messages coming up, ‘You are on TV, you are on TV.’ I’m in the middle of the mountain on top of the ice and people are texting me. I was like, ‘I’m on TV? For what, the Special Olympics?’ They said no, ‘You are on the Super Bowl.’ It was so funny.”

After going back to his hotel and seeing the commercial via computer, Mutombo read a newspaper the following day touting the spot as one of the funniest of the mega-commercial event. He said eliminating the ‘G’ was most enjoyable, just ahead of blasting cereal all over an aisle much to the dismay of a young boy.

The 46-year-old has been approached about the possibility of doing another commercial. He will certainly do it again to help his Dikembe Mutombo Foundation and the hospital and research facility he built in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo that opened in 2007.

Still a resident of Atlanta since his arrival in 1996, Mutombo was honored last week at the center on the Hawks’ team of the 1990s as determined by fan internet voting. He was joined by Mookie Blaylock, Steve Smith Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Willis.

Mutombo played for the Hawks from 1996-2001. He also played for the Nuggets, 76ers, Nets, Knicks and Rockets in a career from 1991-2009. He was an eight-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year. His 3,289 blocks are second only to Hakeem Olajuwon.

“I remember all of the great moments that I had here in Atlanta,” Mutombo said. “Filling up the stadium, fans lining up outside without tickets but hoping they could get in to see the Atlanta Hawks play. Filling the Georgia Dome with 60,000 fans (for a game against Michael Jordan and the Bulls in front of the NBA record 62,046). … People came from Tennessee and Alabama just to see us play.”

Mutombo is back in the limelight once more.

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