Sunday, March 29, 2009
Heat to retire Mourning's No. 33
MIAMI -- Alonzo Mourning's revelation started at President Barack Obama's inauguration, where well-wishers kept asking about his health. It continued weeks later in Florida's capital city, meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist about improving medical coverage for kidney disease sufferers.
He simply realized basketball wasn't such a priority anymore.
"There's a lot more things that I believe I can accomplish," Mourning said.
So on to the next chapter -- but not before one more celebration of his 15-year career takes place when the Miami Heat host the Orlando Magic. Mourning's No. 33 jersey will be retired Monday, making him the first former Heat player so honored by the organization.
For someone with an Olympic gold medal, an NBA championship ring, is recognized as a kidney transplant recipient and advocate and raised millions for his own foundation that helps disadvantaged children, Mourning said it'll be a special night in his life.
"To have an organization recognize your accomplishments and honor you for your contribution, it's a humbling moment," Mourning said. "There's not a lot of people who have an opportunity to experience that. And being the first, it's going to be tremendously humbling. It'll be very difficult for me to hold back my emotions, because as a player, you never want it to end."
Monday was chosen so Mourning's friend, fellow Georgetown alum Patrick Ewing -- a Magic assistant -- could be there. So will former Hoyas coach John Thompson and Mourning's Georgetown roommate, Dikembe Mutombo, along with Jason Cooper, Mourning's cousin and donor of his transplanted kidney in December 2003.
"I'm honored," Ewing said. "He was there for me when they put my jersey in the rafters. I feel blessed that I am going to be there to help him celebrate his career."
Halftime will be 24 minutes, 10 more than usual. Heat players will be on-court for some of the ceremony.
"Like he says, it's a moment he's not looking forward to because he'll know it's over," said Heat guard Dwyane Wade. "But it's a moment that I know he's really looking forward to."
Mourning played his last game Dec. 19, 2007 in Atlanta, exactly four years after his lifesaving kidney transplant.
He considered a comeback this season after recovering from knee and leg injuries suffered when trying to block a shot against the Hawks, but the risks of returning outweighed the potential reward.
"I didn't think coming back was the right thing for him to do. I told him so a number of times and my wife told him so a number of times," Heat owner Micky Arison said. "For him to go through everything he's gone through -- and to have it happen again, which doctors said could easily happen -- that would just be awful. So I was very glad he decided to retire."
Monday is about Mourning's former career. Tuesday, he'll resume his new one.
He'll be at his foundation's office, figuring out ways to help those not as fortunate as he's been over the years.
"If I have the ability to help people, I can't ignore it," Mourning said. "My family's taken care of, I'm taken care of, but I'm not moving to some island. There's people that have supported me my whole life, fans, I'm not going to ignore them. I can't sleep at night knowing there's still so much work to be done."