Alonzo Mourning, who had a drama-filled NBA career as one of the best big man in the modern history of the Association, will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.
Here is his story, and it’s an interesting one.
Mourning, who was a beast of a college basketball player during his time at Georgetown, was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the second overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft…right behind fellow big man Shaquille O’Neal.
Mourning’s accolades prior to joining the Association included USA Male Basketball Athlete of the Year in 1990, McDonald’s Prep All-American in 1988 and multiple All-American honors during his time with the Hoyas.
He averaged 21.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and a five blocks per game in an amazing performance as a senior back in 1991-1992. He also shot nearly 60 percent from the field that season.
This was good enough for the Hornets, who had just come into existence a few seasons earlier as an expansion franchise, to make him the second pick. Charlotte proceeded to improve its win total for a fourth consecutive season in Mourning’s rookie campaign, as he teamed up with Larry Johnson to form a dynamite young tandem in North Carolina.
In the end, Charlotte earned its first postseason appearance that year, winning 44 regular season games, finishing as the No. 5 seed and going up against the storied Boston Celtics in the first round. With Mourning having to take on the likes of Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale upfront, he responded by outplaying both. The then wide-eyed rookie put up 23.8 PPG and 10 RPG as Charlotte defeated the Celtics 3-1 in the best of five.
From there, it was an up-and-down career for the big man.
Charlotte would take a step back the following season, missing the playoffs altogether, before putting up 50 wins and earning a trip to the playoffs in 1994-1995. Unfortunately, it went one and done, losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
That was a wrap for Mourning’s Hornets career. He was traded to the Miami Heat that offseason after friction grew between the players and organization in Charlotte. In Miami, Mourning continued to show why he was among the best centers in the league. Under head coach Pat Riley, the Heat went on to earn six trips to the playoffs in Mourning’s first six years with the team. They topped out at 61-21 in 1996-1997, eventually falling to the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite all this success, Mourning’s first stint with Miami ended on a down note. Before the start of the 2000-2001 season, Mourning was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, which is a serious disease that can cause kidney failure in adults. He played in only 13 games that season before returning to a near full slate the following year. As the condition worsened, Mourning was forced to miss the entire 2002-2003 season.
Mourning moved on to his third team, the New Jersey Nets, the following season. The kidney ailment forced him to retire just a few months into the season. Mourning would eventually require a kidney replacement and in one of the greatest comebacks of all-time, returning to the Nets in 2004-2005. After some friction with the team, Zo was eventually traded to the Toronto Raptors, who bought his contract out.
It was back to the Miami Heat, where Mourning would finish his career, winning the NBA championship as Shaquille O’Neal’s backup in 2005-2006, before calling it quits the next season.
Despite what has to be considered a drama-filled 15-year NBA career, Mourning went down as one of the best big men of his generation. His final career stats include 17.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.8 BPG. He earned seven All-Star Game appearances, an Olympic gold medal, NBA Championship and eventually had his jersey retired by the Heat.
Congratulations to Mourning for receiving this honor. And congratulations to the Basketball Hall of Fame for getting it right. He was and still is one of my favorite players to put on a NBA uniform.
Photo: Hardwood Legends