NEW YORK — Dikembe Mutombo is rejecting the idea of another NBA draft lottery conspiracy.
Mutombo congratulated the Philadelphia 76ers on winning the No. 1 pick with a tweet Tuesday that came about four hours before the lottery. But he tells The Associated Press it was a “mistake that happened” and that he had no knowledge that the 76ers would win.
“I want to let people know there was no conspiracy,” Mutombo said in a phone interview.
Mutombo played for the 76ers during his Hall of Fame career and now works for the NBA as a global ambassador. On Tuesday afternoon, he received an email from the Sixers organization asking him if he would post a congratulatory message on Twitter if the 76ers won.
The email, obtained by AP, showed some sample tweets that could be used. He copied and pasted one onto his Twitter page – but then immediately sent it.
“It was like maybe 30 seconds, then I realized, `Whoa! What did I do here?”‘ he said. “But it was too late. It was out in the air.”
Mutombo quickly deleted the tweet, which included a picture of himself and Allen Iverson, his teammate when the 76ers went to the 2001 NBA Finals. He soon posted another tweet saying he was just excited and had gotten ahead of himself, but was still hoping for a Sixers victory.
The NBA has battled conspiracy accusations since the very first lottery, when the New York Knicks moved up to the No. 1 spot to draft Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing and there was suspicion that one of the envelopes was tampered with so the person selecting would know which one to grab. The league has gone to great lengths to make the event, which is overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, more transparent, even making a video of last year’s drawing to show how it couldn’t be rigged.
Mutombo, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year best known for his wagging his finger when he blocked a shot, rejects the idea of that the league would cheat.
“They need to stop that,” he said. “The NBA is like such a great organization, they don’t even go that way.”
Mutombo got plenty of messages kidding him about his error, and he was able to laugh about it, too.
“I think a lot of people understood the error that was made,” he said.