Skip to main content

Mourning, Alonzo 1970–

Alonzo Mourning 1970

Professional basketball player

Early Basketball Career

Learned About Life and Basketball

Succeeded in the NBA

Sickness Forced Early Retirement

Off The Court

Sources

Alonzo Mourning has been called a prodigy and an enigma. Through hard work and dedication, he turned from a clumsy, awkward preteen into a star professional basketball player. Mourning was one of the most sought after high school players in his graduating class. In the 1992 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft, he was second only to Shaquille ONeal. He was a part of Dream Team II, the elite basketball team that won the gold in the World Championships in 1994. Mourning played exciting games for the Miami Heat and later for the New Jersey Nets. But within a few years, Mourning became less an inspiration for his basketball skills and more for his determination to play despite a debilitating chronic kidney disease he developed. By 2003, when Mournings health forced him to retire, he had become a leading spokesperson for kidney health.

Early Basketball Career

Alonzo Harding Mourning was born in Chesapeake, Virginia, on February 8, 1970, to Alonzo, Sr., and Julia. When he was 12 years old, his parents divorced. He was sent to live with Fannie Threet, a friend of the family. Mourning took his parents divorce hard and began getting in trouble.

To keep Mourning out of trouble, friends and teachers suggested that he play basketball. After all, he was tall; at six foot three inches he stood out. Basketball was not an easy sport for Mourning, who was more apt to fall down than slam dunk a ball. I was very awkward, very clumsy, Mourning recollected in Boys Life magazine. People were laughing at me, but that made me work harder, he continued. Mourning put his all into basketball and soon word spread about this giant kid who could erase your shot faster than chalk off a blackboard, according to Boys Life. Mourning possessed a raw talent that needed some guidance. He found that and more in Bill Lassiter, coach of the Indian River High School basketball team.

As Mourning improved his game, college coaches from across the country approached him, extending invitations to play at their colleges. Mourning was even approached by an agent who wanted to represent him while still a high school junior. Things became pretty tense for the teen. It was kind of exciting at first. But it was tough keeping things in perspective, he said in

At a Glance

Born Alonzo Mourning, Jr., on February 8, 1970, in Chesapeake, VA; son of Alonzo, Sr., and Julia Mourning; married Tracy; son: Alonzo, III, Myka Sydney. Education: Georgetown University, BA, 1992.

Career: Charlotte Hornets NBA basketball team, center, 1992-95; Miami Heat NBA basketball team, center, 1995-2003; New Jersey Nets NBA basketball team, center, 2003.

Awards: NBA All-Rookie First Team, 1993; All-Star player 1994; Olympic Dream Team II, 1994; NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 1998-2000; J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, 2001-2002.

Addresses: Office Hew Jersey Nets, 390 Murray Hill Parkway, E. Rutherford, NJ 07073

Boys Life. After seeing games of Patrick Ewing playing there, Mourning chose Georgetown University. Before entering college, he was invited to try out for the 1988 Olympics. Although he was cut from the team, he was the second to the last person cut. But the exhibition game for the Olympic team gave Mourning the chance to turn his dream of playing against Patrick Ewing into a reality. During the game, Mourning faked out Ewing to make a basket.

Learned About Life and Basketball

Mournings days at Georgetown began well. In 1989 he led the nation in blocked shots, with a total of 169 in his freshman season. Mourning proved to be a graceful center. Under Coach John Thompsons tutelage, he developed skills that could serve him well in the NBA.

But Mourning needed more than basketball skills to get to the NBA, he needed to learn how to control his personal life and to take care of his health. Mourning started learning these lessons at the beginning in his sophomore season. Not one to shy from partying and fun, he hung out with Washington, D.C., drug lord Rayful Edmond III. He was called to testify in federal court about his friendship with Edmond, who is now serving a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. Later that season, Mourning drew criticism for allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark to Nadav Henefeld, Connecticuts Israeli forward. However, everyone involved denied the comment was anti-Semitic. In his junior year Mourning suffered a serious foot injury that caused him to miss nine games. NBA scouts were skeptical about Mournings playing power, but Coach Thompson silenced the naysayers in Sports Illustrated, These NBA people, coming through here with their questionnaires, wanting to see film, theyre hilarious to me. Dikembe was the new kid on the block Last year Zo would have gotten all the blocked shots and rebounds Dikembe got if Id put Zo at center.

By his senior year, Mourning had the control and focus he needed to succeed. He took a break from basketball the summer before his senior year. He worked out with Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo, his closest friends in the NBA, and he answered constituent mail for U.S. Representative Thomas Billey. During this time he became so focused that Coach Thompson would have to chase him out of the weight room to ensure he got some rest from the mental and physical strain of being the team leader.

His senior season showed a new level of maturity in Mourning. He blocked a total of 118 shots. He was also credited with numerous rebounds. According to Sports Illustrated, by keeping his blocked shots in play, kicking the ball out when hes double-teamed and making efficient work at the free throw line, Mourning had learned his duties as a center and team leader. He was named Big East Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Tournament Playerall in the same year.

Succeeded in the NBA

In 1992 Mourning was selected by the NBAs Charlotte Hornets as the second pick overall. The Hornets immediately felt the presence of their rookie center. According to the NBA on the Internet, it took Mourning only 49 games to become the leading shotblocker in [Hornets] history. Along with teammate Larry Johnson he led the Charlotte Hornets to their first playoffs in 1993. Mourning also set a team single season record for attempting 634 free throws. He made the All-Rookie first team and was runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award. And to complete his first season, Mourning had the highest scoring average of any rookie in Hornets franchise history. To say he had a good season would be an understatement.

Though plagued by injuries during his second NBA season, Mourning took part in Dream Team II and won the gold medal at the World Basketball Championships, held in Canada. His third season with the Charlotte Hornets, he was one of four players to lead an NBA team in four major categoriesscoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and field-goal percentage. He played in his first All-Star Game and helped the Hornets crack the 50-win barrier for the first time ever.

At the end of the 1994-95 season, the Charlotte Hornets began talks with Mourning to extend his contract. Mourning asked for $13 million per season and the Hornets countered with $11.2 million. Since Mourning declined the offer, the Charlotte Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat on opening day of the 1995-96 season. Some say Mourning was lured away to the Heat by new coach and part owner Pat Riley, who left the New York Knicks under unusual circumstances. Mourning said in Sports Illustrated, basically he just said, Zo come to Miami, and lets go to work. And to work he went. Mourning led the Heat in points, rebounds, and blocks. He suffered an injury but still started 70 games. The Miami Heat went to the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round.

After signing a contract with the Miami Heat for reportedly $13 million per season through the year 2003, Mourning became the franchise playermeaning the Heat would build a team to accentuate Mourning. He continued to excel in the NBA. Mourning led the Heat to 61 wins in the 1996-97 season, another record, and the team won the Atlantic Division title. Although sidelined by injuries, he helped the Miami Heat reach the playoffs all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals where they were beaten by the Chicago Bulls. After his contract with the Heat ran out, Mourning joined the New Jersey Nets in July of 2003, signing a contract for $22 million over four years.

As a relatively short center, Mourning employed a unique, intimidating style, including scowls, growls, and generally angry facial expressions. A loose cannon in his youth and college days, Mourning has learned to control his intense moodiness, which has both helped and hindered his performance. When asked by Sport magazine about his training, Mourning replied, Its nothing really unique. I do a lot of basketball drills, simple stuff, along with plenty of strength conditioning. He also changed his diet and cut down on his red meat intake in an effort to stay healthy and prevent injuries.

On the court, Mourning took the initiative by studying his opponents moves and analyzing scouting reports before each game. He was described as a hard worker by Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. Riley told Sports Illustrated that, Alonzo is a whirling dervish, a cyclone of a player. He embodies everything we want this team to bepassionate, committed, aggressive, tireless.

Sickness Forced Early Retirement

Accustomed to a high level of energy and stamina, Mourning found himself growing increasingly tired and weak over the years. He learned the source of his difficulties in 2000 when he was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (or FSGS) that inhibits the kidney from filtering toxins out of the body and causes kidney failure and anemia, a related condition that saps the body of red blood cells. There is no single cause of FSGS; it is a rare and incurable illness that was considered untreatable as recently as the early 1990s. Studies have also shown that FSGS predominantly strikes members of the black community.

Medication helped Mourning continue his basketball career for a time. He played 88 games with the Miami Heat from 2001 to 2002 and another 12 games during the 2003 season with the New Jersey Nets. But by November of 2003, Mournings illness had advanced to the point where he could no longer compete on the court. Medical tests indicated that Mournings kidney function had deteriorated and that the chemical imbalances in his blood made it dangerous for him to continue playing, and he was forced to retire. Rick Thorn, general manager of the Nets, announced Mournings retirement, saying It is with great sadness that I make this announcement. Alonzo is a true champion and a very courageous athlete who attempted to defy the odds with his comeback to the NBA. Unfortunately, his medical condition will not allow him to continue his basketball career. Our thoughts and prayers are with him as he continues his fight against this disease.

Mourning immediately started seeking a donor for a kidney transplant. The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America reports that the average wait in America for a kidney transplant is two to four years. But many people came forward to offer Mourning one of their own kidneys. However, by December of 2003, a cousin Mourning had not seen since childhood proved to be a good match and transplant surgery was scheduled. Grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support, Mourning encouraged those who offered him a kidney to extend their generosity toward others in need.

Mourning was released from the hospital with his new kidney on December 23, 2003. When asked if he would likely ever play professional basketball again, Mourning told the ESPN website: I havent even thought about that. All of my focus has been on really just trying to keep this kidney in my body.

Mournings recovery is much anticipated. Nets coach Lawrence Frank remained hopeful about Mournings future, telling the New York Post that, Alonzo, thats a very, very special guy. So you never forget. And we remember Alonzo every day. At some time, hes going to be back with us hopefully in one capacity or another. We havent talked about that, but Godwilling, if everything looks great with his health, wed love to have him around. Whether or not he returns to the NBA, he will continue to inspire others as he continues to live his life to the fullest.

Off The Court

Without seeking recognition, Mourning has offered support to those less fortunate than himself. He helped to build basketball courts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina. He traveled to South Africa with Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo to conduct youth basketball clinics and visit schools. Mourning founded Zos Summer Groove, a charity banquet, concert, and basketball game. Mourning was the NBAs national spokesman for the prevention of child abuse and also participated in the NBAs Healthy Family America program. Mourning won the Professional Basketball Writers Association J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001-2002 for exemplary community service.

Mourning enjoys spending time with wife, Tracy and son, Alonzo III, whom he nicknamed Trey. Mourning believes his family is the best thing that has ever happened to him. He feels his son gives him an increased ability to handle adversity. And Mourning certainly has had difficulties to handle.

Sources

Books

Fortunato, Frank, Sports Great Alonzo Mourning, Enslow, 1997.

Sachare, Alex, ed., The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., Villard Books, 1994.

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 12, 1992, p. C8.

Boys Life, January 1989, pp. 26-28.

Jet, November 27, 1995, p. 50.

Mens Health, March 1994, p. 60.

New York Times, November 9, 1995, p. B19, v2; November 15, 1995, p. B13, v1; July 15, 1996, p. C1, v3; May 29, 1997, p. B11.

Sport, December 1994, p. 68.

Sporting News, December 25, 1997; December 28, 1997.

Sports Illustrated, March 20, 1989, p. 108; March 2, 1992, p. 54; October 26, 1992, p. 13; May 13, 1996, p. 19.

USA Today, May 27, 1997 p. C12; May 29, 1997, p. C1.

Washington Post, November 23, 1989, p. C1; December 23, 1990, p. D1; May 10, 1991, p. F8.

On-line

Mourning Transplant Set for Today, Miami Herald. com, www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/sports/7527338.htm (February 10, 2004).

Mournings Cousin Donor Released Too, ESPN. com, http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1693401 (February 10, 2004).

Zo Remains in Nets Plans, New York Post Online Edition, www.nypost.com/sports/nets/45314.htm (February 10, 2004).

Ashyia Henderson, Marilyn Williams, and Sara Pendergast

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mourning-alonzo-1970

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mourning-alonzo-1970

Mourning, Alonzo 1970–

Alonzo Mourning 1970

Professional basketball player

First Played Basketball at 12

Sought By Many College Coaches

Learned About Life and Basketball

Drafted into the NBA

Philosophy and Regimen Credited for Success

Off The Court

Sources

Alonzo Mourning, star center for the NBAs Miami Heat, has been called a prodigy and an enigma. Through hard work and dedication, he turned from a clumsy, awkward preteen being introduced to basketball into a lean, mean, basketball playing machine. Mourning was one of the most sought afterif not the most sought afterhigh school players in his class. He was apart of Dream Team II, the elite basketball team that won the gold in the World Championships in 1994. In the 1992 NBA Draft, he was second only to Shaquille ONeal. With each new season, Mourning takes his game to a new level.

First Played Basketball at 12

Mourning was born in Chesapeake, Virginia on September 3, 1970 to Alonzo Sr., and Julia. When he was just 12-years-old, his parents divorced. He was sent to live with Fannie Threet, a friend of the family. During these life changes, Mourning was also very tall for his age. At six foot three inches he stood out. To make matters worse, he began getting into trouble.

To keep Mourning out of trouble, friends and teachers suggested he play basketball. After all, he was tall. Basketball was not an easy sport for Mourning, who was more apt to fall down than slam dunk a ball. I was very awkward, very clumsy, Mourning recollected in Boys Life magazine. People were laughing at me, but that made me work harder, he continued.

Mourning put his all into basketball and soon word spread about this giant kid who could erase you shot faster than chalk off a blackboard, according to Boys Life. Mourning possessed a raw talent that needed some guidance. He found that and more in Bill Lassiter, coach of the Indian River High School basketball team.

Sought By Many College Coaches

As Mourning improved his game, college coaches from across the country approached him, extending invitations to play at their colleges. Mourning was even approached by an agent who wanted to represent him while still a high school junior. Things became pretty tense for the teen. It was kind of exciting at first. But it

At a Glance

Born in Chesapeake, Virginia on February 8, 1970 to Alortzo, Sr. and Julia; graduate of Georgetown University; married to Tracy Mourning; sonAlonso, III. Office: Miami Heat, Miami Arena, Miami, Florida 33136-4102.

Career: Center for Georgetown University Hoyas 1988-1992; NBA center for Charlotte Hornets 1992-1995; NBA center for Miami Heat 1995 to present (1998); contributor to the building of several basketball courts in depressed Charlotte neighborhoods; financial contributor to various charities.

Awards/honors: 1988 U.S. Olympic Dream Team; NBA All-Rookie First Team, 1993; All-Star player 1994; and Dream Team II, 1994.

Addresses: OfficeMiami Heat, Miami Arena, Miami, Florida 33136-4102.

was tough keeping things in perspective, he said in Boys Life. After seeing games of Patrick Ewing playing there, Mourning chose Georgetown University. Before entering college, he was invited to try out for the 1988 Olympics. Although he was cut from the team, he was the second to the last person cut. During an exhibition game against a squad of professional basketball players, Mourning played against Patrick Ewing, faked him out and made the basket, thereby bringing what was once a dream of his into reality.

Learned About Life and Basketball

Mournings days at Georgetown began promising. In 1989, he led the nation in blocked shots, making a total of 169 in his freshman season. Mourning proved to be a graceful center. Under Coach John Thompsons tutelage, he turned into NBA material.

However, Mourning ran into trouble in his sophomore season. Not one to shy from partying and fun, he hung out with Washington, D.C. drug lord, Rayful Edmond III. He was called to testify in federal court about his friendship with Edmond who is now serving a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. Later that season, he got flack for allegedly making an anti-Semitic remark to Nadav Henefeld, Connecticuts Israeli forward. Everyone involved denied the comment was anti-Semitic.

In his junior year Mourning suffered a serious foot injury that caused him to miss nine games. NBA scouts were skeptical about Mournings playing power, but Coach Thompson silenced the naysayers in Sports Illustrated, These NBA people, coming through here with their questionnaires, wanting to see film, theyre hilarious to me. Dikembe was the new kid on the block.Last year Zo would have gotten all the blocked shots and rebounds Dikembe got if Id put Zo at center.

Mourning took a break from basketball the summer before his senior year. He worked out with Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo, his closest friends in the NBA, and he answered constituent mail for U.S. Representative Thomas Billey. During this time he became so focused that Coach Thompson would have to chase him out of the weight room to ensure he got some rest from the mental and physical strain of being the team leader.

His senior season showed a new level of maturity in Mourning. He blocked a total of 118 shots. He was also credited with numerous rebounds. According to Sports Illustrated, by keeping his blocked shots in play, kicking the ball out when hes double-teamed and making efficient work at the free throw line, Mourning had learned his duties as a center and team leader. He was named Big East Conference Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Tournament Playerall in the same year.

Drafted into the NBA

In 1992 Mourning was selected by the NBAs Charlotte Hornets, second pick overall. The Hornets immediately felt the presence of their rookie center. According to the NBA on the Internet, it took Mourning only 49 games to become the leading shotblocker in [Hornets] history. He along with teammate Larry Johnson led the Charlotte Hornets to their first playoffs in 1993. Mourning also set a team single season record for attempting 634 free throws. He made the All-Rookie first Team and was runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award. And to complete his first season, Mourning had the highest scoring average of any rookie in Hornets franchise history. To say he had a good season would be an understatement.

Though plagued by injuries during his second NBA season, Mourning took part in Dream Team II and won the gold medal at the World Basketball Championships, held in Canada. His third season with the Charlotte Hornets, he was one of four players to lead an NBA team in four major categories-scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and field-goal percentage. He played in his first All-Star Game and helped the Hornets crack the 50-win barrier for the first time ever.

At the end of the 1994-95 season, the Charlotte Hornets began talks with Mourning to extend his contract. Mourning asked for $13 million per season and the Hornets countered with $ 11.2 million. Since Mourning declined the offer, the Charlotte Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat on opening day of the 1995-96 season. Some say Mourning was lured away to the Heat by new coach and part owner Pat Riley, who left the New York Knicks under unusual circumstances. Mourning said in Sports Illustrated, basically he just said, Zo come to Miami, and lets go to work. And to work he went. Mourning led the Heat in points, rebounds, and blocks. He suffered an injury but still started 70 games. The Miami Heat went to the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round.

After signing a contract with the Miami Heat for reportedly $13 million per season through the year 2003, Mourning became the franchise playermeaning the Heat would build a team to accentuate Mourning. He continued to excel in the NBA. Mourni, ed the Heat to 61 wins in the 1996-97 season, another record and the team won the Atlantic Division title. Although sidelined by injuries, he helped the Miami Heat reach the playoffs all the way to the Eastern Conferencelinals where they were beaten by the Chicago Bulls.

Philosophy and Regimen Credited for Success

As a relatively short center, Mourning employs a unique, intimidating style, including scowls, growls and generally mean facial expressions. A loose cannon in hisouth and college days, Mourning has learned to contrsintense moodiness, which has both helped and jered his performance. When asked by Sport maga, ne about hs training, Mourning replied, Its nothing real unique I do a lot of basketball drills, simple stuff, along with plenty of strength conditioning. He also changed his diet and cut down on his red meat intake in an effort to stay healthy and prevent injuries.

On the court, Mourning has taken the initiative by studying his opponents moves and analyzing scouting reports before each game. He has been described as a hard worker by coach Pat Riley. In Sports Illustrated, Riley was quoted saying, Alonzo is a whirling dervish, a cyclone of a player. He embodies everything we want this team to bepassionate, committed, aggressive, tireless.

Off The Court

Without seeking recognition, Mourning automatically puts every effort into opportunities to give his all, both professionally and personally. Mourning helped to build basketball courts in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Charlotte, North Carolina. He traveled to South Africa with Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo to conduct youth basketball clinics and visit schools. Mourning founded Zos Summer Groove, a charity banquet, concert and basketball game that donates its proceeds to the Childrens Home Society and 100 Black Men in South Florida. He is the NBAs national spokesman for the prevention of child abuse and also participates in the NBAs Healthy Family America program.

On his off days, Mourning spends time with wife, Tracy and son, Alonzo III, whom he nicknamed Trey. Mourning believes his family is the best thing that has ever happened to him. He feels his son gives him an increased ability to handle adversity.

Mourning had surgery at the beginning of the 1997-98 season. He returned in December of 1997 in full force. Mourning had 24 points and nine rebounds in the game played against the Washington Wizards. Many continue to question his ability as a capable center, team leader, and franchise player but those close to the situation know for a fact that Alonzo Mourningonce a gangly, clumsy kidwill become one of the greatest and most graceful basketball centers of all time.

Sources

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution, Dec 12, 1992, p. C8.

Boys Life, January 1989, pgs. 26-28.

Jet, Nov 27, 1995, p.50.

Mens Health, March 1994, p.60.

New York Times, Nov 9, 1995, p. B19, v2; Nov 15, 1995, p. B13, vl; Jul 15, 1996, p. C1, v3; May 29, 1997, p. B11.

Sport, Dec 1994, p. 68.

Sporting News, Dec 25, 1997; Dec 28, 1997.

Sports Illustrated, March 20, 1989, p. 108; March 2, 1992, p. 54;

Oct 26, 1992, p.13; May 13, 1996, p. 19.

USA Today, May 27, 1997 p. C12; May 29, 1997, p. C1.

Washington Post, Nov 23, 1989, p. C1; Dec 23, 1990, p. D1; May 10, 1991, p. F8.

Books

Sachare, Alex, Ed. The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia, Second edition, New York: Villard Books, 1994.

Other

Additional information obtained on the Internet at www.nba.com, www.unc.edu/~lbrooks, www.nando.net/newsroom, www.sportingnews.com, www.amarillonet.com, www.kentuckyconnect.com/her-aldleader, http://psl.sportsline.com, http://espnet.sportszone.com/editors, and http://sunsite.unc.edu/craig.

Marilyn Williams and Ashyia Henderson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 24, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mourning-alonzo-1970-0

"Mourning, Alonzo 1970–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 24, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mourning-alonzo-1970-0