Former Nets Coach John Calipari, Player Dikembe Mutombo Elected To Naismith Hall of Fame

Dikembe Mutombo in a New Jersey Nets uniform. (AP)
Dikembe Mutombo in a New Jersey Nets uniform. (AP)

Former New Jersey Nets coach John Calipari and player Dikembe Mutombo have been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the NBA announced today.

Neither Mutombo nor Calipari made their mark with the Nets, but both had a significant role in the team’s history. Calipari coached the team for three seasons from 1996 to 1999, making the playoffs in 1998 before a 3-17 start led to his firing in 1999. Rumors of Calipari returning to the Nets have swirled ever since, even as recently as two weeks ago.

After getting swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 NBA Finals, the Nets traded starters Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch for Mutombo, and returned to the Finals to face the San Antonio Spurs. But Mutombo was not the defensive force he had been in years past, playing in just 24 regular season games and 10 playoff games. He did participate in all six NBA Finals games, playing just under 14 minutes per game.

Calipari earned his spot in the Hall of Fame for his coaching exploits at the collegiate level, while Mutombo was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year prior to his short stint in New Jersey. Neither one of their capsules from the NBA mention their time with the Nets.

From the NBA:

Calipari is a three-time Naismith College Coach of the Year (1996, 2009, 2015), three-time National Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year (1996, 2009, 2015) and nine-time Conference Coach of the Year (1993,1994,1996, 2006, 2008-10, 2012, 2015), He coached University of Massachusetts from 1988-1996 and won five Atlantic 10 regular season championships and five Tournament championships (1992-1996). Calipari then coached University of Memphis from 2000-2009 and won four Conference USA regular season championships (2004, 2006, 2007, 2009), three C-USA Tournament championships (2006, 2007, 2009) and the NIT Tournament (2002). With the University of Kentucky since 2009, he has won three SEC regular season championships (2010, 2012, 2015), three SEC Tournament championships (2010, 2011, 2015) and an NCAA Championship (2012). Calipari has led his teams to eight Elite Eight Appearances (2006, 2007, 2009-12, 2014, 2015) and four NCAA Final Four appearances (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015).

Mutombo is an eight-time NBA All-Star (1992, 1995-98, 2000-02) and a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001). He led the NBA in blocked shots for five consecutive seasons (1994-98) and blocks per game for a record three consecutive seasons (1994-96). He earned NBA All-Rookie Team recognition in 1992 and All-NBA Second Team in 2001. A native of Zaire, Africa, Mutombo attended Georgetown University (1988-1991) and played in the NBA from 1991 until 2009 recording 11,729 points, 12,359 rebounds, and 3,289 blocks in eighteen NBA seasons. He received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009. His legendary finger-wagging motion after blocked shots became one of the most recognized gestures in the game.

The full list of inductees: Mutombo, Calipari, JoJo White, Spencer Haywood, Dick Bavetta, Lisa Leslie, Louie Dampier, George Raveling, John Isaacs, Lindsay Gaze, and Tommy Heinsohn.