The Miami Heat knew they were trading for a star, but not the legend he turned into.
Alonzo Mourning, or more well-known throughout his career as “Zo,” will always be a Miami Heat Legend for his work both on and off the court throughout the South Florida region. Zo has always had a very special impact on those around him and has been a role-model for many generations of kids and adults during his lifetime.
Even to this day, Zo is still contributing to the team’s success as he enters his 11th season in the front office as Vice President of Player Programs, helping mentor the young Miami Heat players and represent the team around the community in their various charity and business endeavors. Zo has been one of the faces of the Heat franchise since 1995, when then new coach Pat Riley made one of the most impactful trades in franchise history.
It took fan favorite and budding All-Star, Glen Rice, plus a first round pick, center Matt Geiger, and point guard Khalid Reeves to nab superstar center Alonzo Mourning from Charlotte in a blockbuster move to acquire one of the League’s best Centers and future Hall of Famers.
The Minister of Defense (as Heat fans like to call him) came from perennial college basketball powerhouse Georgetown under the tutelage of legendary Coach John Thompson (RIP Coach). For those too young to remember, Georgetown was once known as “Big Man U”, producing a plethora of Hall of Fame Centers including Dikembe Mutombo and Patrick Ewing.
These were the days when the biggest guy on the court actually stayed in the paint and didn’t shoot threes! But I digress…Zo’s stats speak for themselves:
- Seven time NBA All-Star
- Two time Block Champ
- Twice on the All-NBA tea
- Two time Defensive Player of the Year (back to back)
- 2006 NBA Champion
- Gold Medal Winner in 2000 Olympics
- 2014 NBA Hall of Fame Inductee
Mourning also helped bring the Heat its first ever championship, eleven years after his arrival. Of course, Dwyane Wade and Shaq had something to do with the first title in 2006 but Zo was instrumental too, as the second of the “Twin Towers” for that feisty Heat team who overcame a 2-0 deficit against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.
The Miami Heat needed star power, but what they got was a luminary.
After he retired in 2008, the team wasted no time retiring his jersey number in 2009, making him the first ever Heat player to have his jersey retired. I was at his jersey retirement ceremony while working for the Heat that year and it was breath-taking.
The arena was overflowing with emotion. It was such a special night for a special player.
Number 33 will forever be remembered in Heat lore as he is still the franchise’s all-time leader in blocked shots, 2nd in points, free throws made, rebounds and double doubles along with being in the top 10 of pretty much every other statistical category. And in case you forgot about his imposing presence on the court and how he controlled the paint for nearly two decades in the NBA, check out one of Zo’s highlight reels here.
Yes, post-moves did used to exist!
In addition to his achievements on the court, Alonzo Mourning has done just as much for the Miami area off the court. Zo is still a staple of the South Florida community – albeit and though you will find him on the golf course more than the basketball courts these days.
His philanthropic efforts are second to none.
The Mourning Family Foundation helps inspire, empower, and enrich the lives of children all across the greater Miami area as they have raised over $25 million since 1997 by providing educational and extracurricular activities for countless young people across South Florida’s disenfranchised communities.
Zo has won multiple humanitarian awards including the NBA’s Community Assist Award, The Children’s Trust Excellence Aware for Public Policy in 2007, and has been the Chair of the McDonald’s All-American Game Advisory Committee. After a successful kidney transplant operation in 2000, Zo continues campaigning for the National Kidney Foundation and educating on the importance of being an organ donor.
He has a keen ability to reach, empower, and inspire those around him. Being a cancer survivor myself, I can speak on the importance of hearing from people in similar medical situations.
Especially when you see athletes you look up to and think the world of go through the same life-threatening circumstances as the everyday Joe, it can be quite humbling for everyone involved.
Being an outspoken athlete on the issues that matter most to him has helped cement Alonzo Mourning on the Heat’s “Mount Rushmore” as a local legend who will continue to thrive by helping his community shine through the ups and downs we all encounter on a daily basis. Thank you for all the love and support you have shown South Florida over the years Zo and keep up the great work!