FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith loves basketball. He grew up in Memphis, watched the game his whole life. So every now and then during their press conferences, a basketball analogy enters their vernacular.
Such was the case on Monday, when he jokingly suggested a tryout to 55-year-old Dikembe Mutombo after using him as an example in describing the importance of length in blocking field goals and extra points.
“We’d put it on the field goal and extra point blocking,” Smith said. “Dikembe, if you’re watching this, we’ll get [Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot] to work out here tomorrow. You have a nice jump here so we can get one of those. “
And then Smith started wagging his finger in Mutombo lore after a big blocked shot.
– Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 25, 2021
This started because of how Smith explained that the Falcons blocked a Miami Dolphins field goal attempt during Atlanta’s 30-28 win in Florida on Sunday. And how the length of rookie edge runner Adetokunbo Ogundeji helped facilitate that.
Explaining the importance of this, he returned to basketball and the legendary shot blocker.
“Size is hard to train,” Smith said. “It’s like having Dikembe Mutombo. Get up there and you wish you had said you had a special drill to block shots and it’s one of those, but it’s like Ade, Ade has long.”
Which led to the obvious question: If the 7-foot-2-inch Mutombo had played football instead of basketball, where could he really play? Mutombo, after all, knows a bit about blocking: The Basketball Hall of Famer is second in NBA history with 3,289 blocks and led the league in blocked shots for five seasons from 1993-94 to 1997- 98.
Mutombo, the fourth pick in the 1991 NBA draft from Georgetown who retired in 2009, played 1,196 NBA games between the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets and also five years. with Atlanta. Hawks
The Hawks now play at the State Farm Arena across the street from the Smith’s Falcons’ home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Smith, 39, grew up in the era of Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, the two most prolific shot blockers in NBA history. Smith was asked why there aren’t many such great players in the NFL: The league occasionally has players who are 6 feet 9 inches tall, but they are not regulars and generally play on the offensive or defensive line.
And Smith didn’t have an answer, but he also didn’t rule out such great players.
“The odds are saying that I would never rule someone out,” Smith said. “I know some of the battles we had with Calais Campbell when he was in Jacksonville, there are certain moments where I felt like he was 7 feet tall and coming towards you. Certain guys are very long, you are talking about [J.J.] Watt and guys who are really good at shooting down the ball.
“I’ll never rule anyone out. But historically there haven’t been a lot of guys that tall. But I’m not ruling you out, Dikembe.”