Thursday, 24 May 2012
ALONZO MOURNING-THE LEGEND OF 'ZO
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
It was last April and this writer was abroad in America for a vacation taking in the talents down in South Beach. Feeling as welcome in Miami as Will Smith in an attempt to catch a scoop and some rays. So heading downtown I caught the hottest ticket in town to watch the Heat play the last great Eastern team before them; the Boston Celtics in an epic, hard-thought precursor to the playoffs.
After the biggest decision made in sport for years, LeBron James and his Miami Heat where (and still are at press time) the team to see and beat. Still this game was all about 'Bron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in their rookie year together taking the baton from the leagues former manifested big three Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and their recruiter Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics. A lot of legends where on court to witness a torch being past but none burnt brighter than the star who shone for a full decade and was honored at halftime. The original Heat legend before Shaq and before THAT decision; Alonzo Mourning was awarded at halftime yet again for his countless, gracious charity work. The only problem was, somewhere between being too excited about the King James crowning future and being too rushed to beat the hot dog Que its almost seemed like nobody stuck around to witness the legend that is 'Zo and give him the standing 'O' he truly deserved more than anyone that night.
Where's the love?
Here it is. With all due respect Alonzo Mourning is the man. So where was the respect? OK so you could probably charge it to their heads (and perhaps growling stomachs) not their heart but the Heat should have felt Alonzo that night. This was no 'Training Day'. He's no rookie. He's a legend. The soul of the franchise before Wade brought Shaq then LeBron, some championships and maybe some more (watch this space...or series).
Straight out of Chesapeake, Virginia and Indian River High School, young 'Zo had a classic college career as a Georgetown Hoya, creating a large, lasting legacy of big man greats. Along with Patrick Ewing and Dikeme Mutombo Alonzo became some of the alumni's finest and the NBA's most dominating big-men of the nighties, the golden era of pivot play.
Selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the second pick and a high-top fade in the '92 draft before the buzz cut Mourning was a cut above the rest. He later would have a career shaved short but one that still saw 14,311 (17.1 ppg), 7,137 (8.5 rpg) and 2,356 (2.8 apg) career totals from a 6' 10, 261 pound, 20 and 10 threat. A career that saw 7 All-Star selections, 2 defensive player of the year awards, countless first-team credits, some Olympic medals to add to the trophy cabinet that most importantly contained an NBA championship for his hard-work, drive and determination.
If polishing all these trophies off wasn't enough then Mourning also had his number 33 jersey rightfully raised to the perfect place in the American Airlines rafters. The man who made the Heat his home will always have part of his legacy in place in Miami becoming the first franchise player to have his jersey retired, gone fishing with it's feet up. Rightfully so too. Now there's the respect we're talking about. From the days of leading the South Beach squad into the scorching heat of playoff competition to standing alongside Shaquille O'Neal as a bigger version of twin post players Tim Duncan and 'The Admiral' David Robinson.
Admirable was the perfect way to describe Alonzo Mourning's career. Along with phrases like 'courageous', 'giving', 'spirited', 'incredible'. When he wasn't teaming up with Shaq he was amazingly aligned alongside fellow big hearted, courage over afflicted, beautiful mind over tragic matter, big-man Brian Grant in the frontcourt.
After recovering from a kidney transplant like San Antonio's driven gunner Sean Elliott, Alonzo returned to action with a show of strength when no one thought he or anyone could come back from such an affliction. In his brief time in New Jersey, Mourning marveled the Meadowlands almost ripping the Nets baskets down with a force that looked like the power of a God, not a man who hadn't been long from the hospital bed. His hammer of Thor dunks and ever tenacious play showed the Jersey boys and the rest of the league that he was back with avengance.
Still 'Mourning' is almost an appropriate term for the tragic shame that comes with what more could have come from Alonzo's career. His painful and prolonged Kidney ailment took years off his career. Even though what he did in his 15 years was more than enough and a good innings (it was so much more). The will and strength of this decade and a half strong player could have seen him go for 20 like he did on the box-score most nights. Still, with that being said however the most important thing is that Alonzo Mourning is healthy and well. The rest is secondary. Still, what a great career it was. A career that was criminally underrated anyway before illness tragically took away what was left of his prime time.
Still like he did on the court Alonzo bravely rebounded from all of the trouble and pain and became the 'ultimate warrior' for the Heat as well as their all-time scorer. From shattering block shot records to breaking new ground with charities Alonzo Mourning's been more than the consummate professional on and off the court. He's been a real man. A true warrior fighting whatever cause. A Heat player standing tall like a volcano with a magma hot soul driven with resilience, erupting when people least expected. Alonzo was more than the Heat's heart and what made them truly hot. He was their soul and passion. He was their fire inside.