Alonzo Mourning was one of the most exciting and dominant centers in the NBA during the 1990s.
Mourning started with the Charlotte Hornets, where in three seasons he averaged 21.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
After his three years in Charlotte, Mourning refused to sign an extension, and he was traded to the Miami Heat. There, he'd play under legendary head coach, Pat Riley.
In his first five years with Miami, Mourning led the Heat to one Eastern Conference Finals, and he won back to back Defensive Player of the Year Awards ('99, '00).
A Serious Kidney Disease Diagnosis For Mourning
Alonzo Mourning played for Team USA in the 2000 Summer Olympics. He helped Team USA win the gold medal, but shortly after he'd receive life-changing news.
A team doctor on the Miami Heat noticed some abnormalities with Mourning's body chemistry during a standard physical. This led to Mourning, seeing a nephrologist.
“I was diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder called focal glomerulosclerosis… The kidney function was deteriorating, and at that particular point, we had to discuss possible donors… It was just a matter of finding the right one,” Mourning said in an interview on ABC's “This Week”.
After initially hearing the news, one question popped into Mourning's mind.
“I said, ‘Doc, am I going to die?’ He paused; he took too long to answer me. And he said, ‘We have no known cure’… ultimately, he said, ‘In about 10-12 months you’ll probably be on dialysis.’”
This is a natural human reaction to such horrible news, but more bad news would follow.
Mourning was told he'd miss the entire 2000-2001 NBA season. As someone who lives and breathes basketball, this was obviously devastating news.
Alonzo Mourning Is No Quitter
Mourning never quit when it came to the game of basketball and this situation would be no different.
After being told he'd miss the entire season, Mourning proved his doctors and the world wrong by battling back to play in the Heat's final 13 regular-season games.
The next season, Mourning would play in 75 games, and he'd make the All-Star team (his last). Despite his efforts, the Heat missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1994-1995 season.
Mourning would miss the entire 2002-2003 season because of his kidney disease, but he'd return the following season, this time as a member of the New Jersey Nets.
Retirement And A Life-Saving Donation
Mourning would only manage to play in 12 games during the 2003-2004 regular season before retiring because of his kidney disease.
This looked to be the end of Mourning's NBA career unless he found a miracle…
This miracle happened for Mourning during an odd situation.
At the hospital, Mourning's grandmother was ill and one of Mourning's cousins, whom he never met, was visiting.
After learning about Mourning's retirement from the NBA because of his kidney disease, his cousin, a retired U.S. Marine named Jason Cooper, decided to get tested, to see if he was a match.
As I said, Mourning needed a miracle, and Cooper was that miracle. He matched Mourning for donation, and they set the date.
On December 19, 2003, Mourning's second chance at life happened. Cooper successfully had his left kidney transplanted into Mourning.
Cooper, who was a hero to the country for his service, now became a hero again, by giving his cousin a second chance at life.
NBA Comeback And Championship
After receiving his new kidney, Mourning came out of retirement with the Nets in the 2004-2005 NBA season.
This reunion with the Nets wouldn't be a happy one. Mourning was upset with his role on the team and after 18 games, the Nets traded Mourning to the Toronto Raptors.
Mourning wasn't happy with the Toronto situation either. In fact, he never showed up to the team, so the Raptors eventually released him.
Mourning's situation would get better when he would sign with the Miami Heat. He'd make this reunion a much better situation than his Nets reunion.
Mourning would play as the backup center to NBA great, Shaquille O'Neal, but he didn't complain about his role.
The 2005-2006 NBA season, which was Mourning's first full season back with the Heat, ended in Mourning's Heat winning the NBA title.
The Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-2 in an incredible series where Heat guard, Dwyane Wade, proved he was a star in the league.
Mourning would go on to play two more seasons with the Heat before retiring for good.
Mourning finished his career with these stats:
- 17.1 points per game
- 8.5 rebounds per game
- 52.7% field goal percentage
In Mourning's interview with ABC's “This Week”, he went on to add this about his experience after receiving his life-saving kidney transplant:
“For me to come out of this the way I've come out of it and to win a world championship and overcome all those obstacles, and obviously you look at it from the outside, looking in and say, 'Wow, that's an incredible story'.
But in essence, it is. And a lot of the reason why I came out of it and I think the reason why… is to help change the lives and inspire others to overcome and not to succumb to what they might be dealing with.
I want everybody to just focus a little bit more on your health, 'cause we ignore it so many times. Get regular check-ups at least once a year. Also, you too, like I said, can change someone else's life through organ donation.
So go to your local DMV and fill out the card.
Recycle yourself. Become an organ donor. Obviously, I'm a living testament to that transplantation saves lives.
And know that there are thousands of people… thousands, thousands of people who are waiting on transplant lists today, just waiting for a second opportunity at life. And, you know, that's what I was given… another opportunity to live.”
These words from Mourning couldn't have been said better. We all, as healthy adults, can become someone's hero. Be that hero, register to become an organ donor, today.