By Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel
5:50 p.m. EDT, April 7, 2014
Alonzo Mourning insists he won't cry when he is enshrined into to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Aug. 8.
Of course, the former shot-blocking center made the same vow when his No. 33 jersey was retired by the Miami Heat in March 2009.
"I've actually got a couple of bets with a couple of my boys that I won't cry," Mourning said Monday in Dallas, after he was formally announced as a member of the Hall's Class of 2014. "This time, I'm going to win the bet, 'cause I cried at my jersey retirement, and I didn't expect that to happen. But I'm excited about the opportunity, and I'm excited to represent all those individuals that helped contribute to this moment."
Mourning already was emotional Monday at the media session held in advance of the NCAA Tournament championship game between Kentucky and Connecticut at nearby AT&T Stadium. He was even more emotional later, speaking on a conference call about overcoming his 2003 kidney transplant and going on to win the 2006 NBA championship with the Heat.
"I stand here on the shoulders of so many other people," he said. "The man over there to the left [pointing to former Georgetown coach John Thompson] that helped contribute so much to my life, not just as an athlete, but as a person, as well. Big John taught me more about life than he did about basketball and prepared me for that next step. And my family, obviously. [Heat President] Pat Riley, you've got to throw him in that category, as well. So there's a lot of contributors. I'm very, very grateful."
Among those who will be alongside at the Aug. 8 enshrinement in Springfield, Mass., will be his cousin Jason Cooper, who donated a kidney to Mourning, whose battle with kidney illness was at a critical stage before that Dec. 19, 2003 procedure.
"He was one of the first phone calls that I made, to let him know the news. I thanked him for all he had done for me," Mourning said. "When I came back from my kidney transplant, there were a lot of people who doubted me. But I had some deep doubt, too."
Mourning said his greatest source of pride was serving as motivation for others in need of transplantation.
"That," he said, "affects more people in the world than my winning a world championship. I feel like my legacy off the court will overshadow my legacy on the court."
But making it back to win the 2006 title meant plenty, especially after so many failed bids alongside Riley prior to the 2000 onset of his kidney illness.
"When Pat Riley traded five guys and some picks to bring me to Miami, I made a commitment to him. I said I'm in this to help Miami win a world championship," he said. "When I came up short with the kidney disease, I asked God if he would give me the strength to get back on the court again.
"If my life ended today, I've lived a storybook life. I think I've had a lot of angels in my life."
Mourning becomes the second player with Heat ties in the Hall, with Heat 2006 NBA championship point guard Gary Payton inducted in 2013, albeit more for his success with the Seattle SuperSonics than his 2005-06 and '06-07 seasons largely utilized as a Heat reserve. Riley was inducted into the Hall in 2008 for his coaching success with the Los Angeles, Lakers, New York Knicks and Heat. Current Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo was inducted into the Hall in 2000 for his career as one of the sport's most prodigious scorers.
Mourning indicated his preference for those to present him for induction would be Thompson and Riley.
Mourning was a seven-time All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000, ranked top five in blocked shot nine times, averaged 20 or more points six times, stands 10th all-time in career blocks and sixth all-time in blocked shots per game. He was a member of the Heat's 2006 NBA championship team. He currently serves as a Heat executive.
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