Still Can’t Stop Mourning
Talking regrets, Dwight Howard and a whole lot more with Alonzo Mourning.
October of ’00 was nearing an end when a 30-year-old Alonzo Mourning found out he suffered from focal glomerulosclerosis. With his kidneys ailing, his immediate focus became his health. His NBA career? That became an afterthought—at least for a few months.
Not half a year after diagnosis, Mourning fans witnessed him lacing ‘em back up in Miami. It was deemed a miracle–or something close to it. But they shouldn’t have been surprised: Zo’s always displayed strength that borders on superhuman.
Zo’s comeback was one of the best stories of that NBA season, and SLAM wanted to be there to cover it. So a few short days before shipping–and only a few games after his comeback began–SLAM made a last-second effort to land Mourning on the cover. Russ described it as a shot in the dark; it was unlikely that the Heat and Zo would give the OK. After all, it was the middle of the season, and tons of media outlets were sweating him. It was akin to a regular Joe chasing after a supermodel–likely to end with her in the wind and him holding a restraining order. Only this must have occurred in Joe’s dreams, though, because it worked out. Miami and Alonzo gave us the go-ahead.
Like Russ wrote then: “Heartfelt thanks…most of all to Alonzo Mourning, who, during the most stressful time of his life, made time for someone else. Us. So thanks, Zo, and good luck.”
A decade after diagnosis, four years after winning a title, almost two season after leaving the game on his own terms and a few weeks before one of his favorite events of the year, we caught up with a happy and healthy 40-year-old Alonzo Mourning. Don’t know if it was our wishing him luck or his tireless work, but Zo’s done a lot more in the last decade than anyone could have imagined. Good for him. And us (the world).
SLAM: How are you doing Alonzo?
Alonzo Mourning: I’m doing great, thanks. How are you?
SLAM: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for calling me. So what have you been up to?
AM: No problem. Just working. Working, doing the family thing, being a daddy, a husband, working for the Miami Heat, so…
SLAM: Even with all that work, it must be nice having all the extra time now that you don’t have 82 games to play?
AM: Actually I’m still pretty busy, man. As far as extra time, yeah, I got a little extra time. But I fill that up with golf. I try to fit golf in there every now and then.
SLAM: Is that how you’re staying in shape, or you still lifting?
AM: Oh, I still lift and workout. I use the facilities at the arena.
SLAM: You were heavily involved in the happenings in Haiti after the tragedy there this year. You always seem to get involved with charity. Why do you feel the need to get involved where others don’t always?
AM: The same reason why parents feel the need to take care of their children: It’s just that none of us would be here without the contributions of someone else. So when I see women and children and families suffer, I can’t just sit back and watch, especially when I’ve got the capabilities of making a difference.
SLAM: Is that partly why you’re involved in the McDonald’s game?
AM: That’s a HUGE part of why I’m involved in the McDonald’s All-American game. The McDonald’s All-American Advisory Council is an exciting addition to the McDonald’s All-American and I’m very proud to be supportive of it. And the thing about it is, with our three point mission, we’re helping to aid in the growth of these future athletes, build on the legacy and prestige of the games, and also lead by example by showing athletes the importance of being a champion on the court and in the community. And when it’s all said and done, playing a sport is temporary; you can’t do that forever. And afterwards what are you gonna do? You gotta use your resources, your talent, your influences, all your capabilities. You gotta use those to make a difference in this world. And the more we can ingrain that mentality, especially with the financial wherewithal and resources that these athletes have, not just in basketball but in all sports, the more we can help them understand the importance of giving and making a difference in people’s lives, I think the better off this world we’ll be.
SLAM: 100 percent. So when the kids get together in Columbus in a few weeks for this year’s game, are you gonna sit them down and talk to them?
AM: Oh yeah, yeah. Always. There’s always an opportunity to go in the locker room and speak to the teams and everything. Just talk to them and try to—we’re in the process of structuring a summit where we can bring council members in like Candace Parker and Danny Ferry to speak to them about life and life skills, and talk about the mistakes that we’ve made and help them learn from the mistakes and make better decisions. We want them to be better people, so by sharing our experiences, it might instill the right decisions in them, so we’re in the process of structuring that [summit] now.
SLAM: You, Candace and Danny can help them because you’ve been in the same situations before, but how do you think things have changed in the decades since you were in their position?
AM: Oh for sure. Yeah I agree. Things have changed tremendously. I think these kids are exposed to so much more than we were. At the same time, I think the mentality has changed for these kids, there’s such a sense of entitlement now. I think a lot these kids feel like they’ve arrived, and they really haven’t. You’ve still gotta put in a lot of work and time in order to be successful. You can’t just walk in the door with your hand out. You’ve gotta go out and take it; you’ve gotta work for it. A lot of that comes with developing the right mentality.
SLAM: On the lighter side, if any of the bigs talk smack to you, you gonna get out on the court and show them how to hoop?
AM: (Laughing) Naw, I wouldn’t quite say that. I might just pull ’em to the side and talk to ’em and let ’em know their time will come. But they gotta create that time for themselves, they do, they gotta create that time themselves.
SLAM: Let them know if you were still out on the court you’d be swatting those shots?
AM: Oh, yeah. Most definitely.
SLAM: It’s been about a year since you’ve been out of the game. Any regrets about hanging it up?
AM: Nah, no regrets. I think I’ve accomplished more than what 90 percent of the guys in the NBA, the guys that have ever come to the NBA, would have loved to accomplish. So, I’ve got no complaints, brother. I really don’t. I’ve got no complaints. I’m blessed, and I feel like I’ve had a pretty productive and impactful career, considering some of the obstacles I had to deal with.
SLAM: What do you miss most about the NBA, if anything?
AM: I miss the competitiveness, I miss the camaraderie, the only thing I don’t miss is the traveling and the four games in five nights—I really don’t miss that, the five games in seven nights. But I miss the camaraderie, sharing the time with my teammates, I miss the Playoffs, I miss those, man. (Chuckles) I miss them because that was a time when I played my best basketball, in the Playoffs. And its so good to contribute at that level and use your talents to create some good things for the basketball franchise that you’re committed to and cared about. And it just makes you feel good when guys could come together and just be successful as one.
SLAM: Hindsight’s twenty/twenty, but if you could go back, would you do anything differently?
AM: If I could go back and start from scratch again, I would incorporate holistic and natural medicines and herbs into my whole regiment, and also I would have done more yoga at a young age.
SLAM: Stay loose and agile?
AM: Exactly. I would have done a whole lot more yoga, and just taken a more holistic approach to my career.
SLAM: You were just saying you loved the Playoffs. The games a little bit different now, a little softer, at least in my eyes; what do you think?
AM: Yeah, it is compared to when myself and Patrick [Ewing] and David Robinson back in the early 90’s, oh yeah. It was a lot more of a physical game back then. That’s how I was accustomed to playing. And you’re right, they don’t have that anymore. It’s a more perimeter oriented game, there’s not as many big men in it any more—at least impactful big men. I think it’s a lost art. So I keep telling my son, Don’t try to be a guard. Try to be something of a commodity. Big men are a dime a dozen now, you know, they are. If you can learn to shoot a hook shot with both hands, rebound and block shots, you can play for a good 20 years, all you gotta do is stay healthy. Do that, you can play for twenty years. (Laughs) You know what I’m saying?
SLAM: Definitely do. If Alonzo Mourning was 20 and at Georgetown about to come out in the 2010 Draft…
AM: Oh my God, are you serious? I would rip the League to pieces. I came out my rookie season and I was 20-10 and averaged almost four blocks a game. With that said, you can imagine what I’d be doing now.
SLAM: How do you think you would have fared against Dwight Howard when you were in your prime?
AM: Ahh, Dwight. Well, Dwight is very strong and agile, and I was the same way. The only thing that separates me and Dwight is that fact that I had a jumper. I mean, Dwight doesn’t really have a jumper. I could shoot, I could shoot deep. I could extend the defense because I was shooting the three when I came to the League. You know, I was shooting from the top of the key. That’s not Dwight’s game. I used to do all the things that Dwight’s doing, I was very athletic; I was running the court; I was rebounding, blocked a lot of shots. But like I said, the only difference between me and Dwight at that particular time was that I was a lot better shooter. I was a lot better scorer than Dwight.
SLAM: One other difference is he’s always smiling on the court, and you were always keeping it serious…
AM: (Laughing) Well that’s just his whole demeanor, everyone has different demeanors and personas. I was more of a serious player. I wasn’t about a whole lot of smiling. But that’s him. I’m not degrading him at all. That’s how he chooses to approach the game. He’s getting criticized for smiling all the time; I used to get criticized for frowning all the time. You know, so you can’t please everybody. That was how I approached the game: I would do all my smiling after the game. I didn’t have nothing to smile about out there other than when we won, we won the game, then we could laugh and talk and smile about it. But when I was out on the court, it was all about business with me all the time. I wanted people to take me serious, too. I didn’t want anybody to see this guy laughing and joking and smiling, and didn’t want to make me serious. I wanted everybody to take me serious, and they did that.
SLAM: They did and they always will, thanks Alonzo.
AM: Thanks a lot. Also, this McDonalds All-American game, it’s being played March 31st and I think the key that people understand is that all the tickets that I bought goes to helping the Ronald McDonald House Charities and that’s what it’s all about. When its all said and done, that’s what the game’s is about, helping those who are in need, especially young people.