Today is the day Alonzo Mourning devoted his whole life working towards – the 2014 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
For the last few days, I have discussed some of Zo’s accomplishments in the game of basketball that helped pave the way to Springfield. You can check out the recap thus far below:
The Hall of Fame countdown continues today with the second most memorable moment for Mourning as a member of the Miami Heat…
#2 – The 2006 NBA Finals
Alonzo Mourning re-signed with the Miami Heat in 2005 shortly after returning to the NBA following a successful kidney transplant that forced him to retire in 2003. Although Mourning was no longer able to physically withstand 30+ minutes as a starter every night, he was still able to contribute in spurts off the bench.
At the time, future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal was the primary big man for the Heat in the middle. He fit perfectly into his role as a backup center because his game (defensive minded, intangibles, all around hustle) complimented O’Neal’s (offensive minded, often in foul trouble).
Mourning helped lead Miami to the playoffs in 2006 with a 52-30 overall record – good for second best in the Eastern Conference. The Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls (4-2), New Jersey Nets (4-1), and Detroit Pistons (4-2) to advance to their first NBA Finals in franchise history.
The trip to the Finals was bittersweet for Mourning because for years, he was the face of the franchise in Miami and one of the best players in the league during his prime. Unfortunately for Mourning, he was never quite able to get over the hump and lead the Heat to a championship in his first stint with the organization.
Now as a backup to O’Neal and a mentor to young star Dwyane Wade, Mourning found himself where he always envisioned being – playing for a championship. The heavily favored Dallas Mavericks were now the only team standing in his way of finally capturing that elusive NBA title.
After falling behind 2-0 in the series, there were not many people around the league who gave the Heat a chance to come back and win the series. It was Mourning’s leadership that kept the Heat focused and prepared as the series shifted back to Miami.
The Heat would go on to win the next three games in Miami to take a 3-2 series lead heading back to Dallas for Game 6. Mourning was now one game away from winning an NBA Championship but it would have to come on the road in front of 21,000+ screaming Maverick fans.
To the surprise of no one, Mourning came ready to play and left it all on the floor that night in Dallas. His 8 points, 6 rebounds, and game-high 5 blocks had a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
With less than nine minutes to go and the Heat clinging to a five-point lead, Mourning came flying out of nowhere to make a highlight reel block on Jason Terry. The block was one that he had made thousands of times before but not on this stage, not minutes from an NBA title.
Most fans watching that night assumed Mourning was celebrating when he was on the ground following the block but in reality, he was mad at teammate Gary Payton for a careless turnover with everything on the line.
Remember Zo’s block in the 2006 Finals vs Jason Terry? He wasn’t celebrating the block; he was mad at Gary Payton for turning the ball over.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 6, 2014
If you asked me to summarize the type of player Alonzo Mourning was in the NBA for 15 incredible seasons, without a doubt this would be the first clip I would show. It is the type of play that not many in NBA history would ever make possible – did I mention this was after the man overcame a life-threatening kidney illness?
The Heat went on to win Game 6 of the NBA Finals 95-92 to capture their first NBA Championship in franchise history. Looking back, it is fair to wonder where the Heat would have been without Mourning’s contributions on both ends of the floor, especially the defensive end with his 6 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Alonzo Mourning was now an NBA Champion. Call me biased, but has there ever been a player more deserving than Zo was in that moment?