After an emotional speech that made sure to thank not just his loved ones but also his doctors for seeing him through his amazing career, Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning entered the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and marked another chapter of his one-of-a-kind journey. Days later, the first-ballot inductee talked with FOXSportsFlorida.com and reflected on that moment as well as his legacy.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: After waiting all this time to actually get inducted into the Hall of Fame after the nomination, how did it feel to be out there on the stage and make your acceptance speech in front of your colleagues and loved ones?
MOURNING: Well, the emotions were embodied by the journey … and remembering the journey that it took to get there and all the individuals that helped me get to that moment. It was all about reflecting and paying tribute to those individuals for their contributions.
FSF: Describe your greatest moment as a player.
MOURNING: The greatest moment would be the 2006 world championship. That was my greatest moment because it took the franchise 18 years to get there and it took me 13 years as a player to reach that particular moment. To be able to contribute and overcome the obstacles I had to overcome to get there made it even more special.
FSF: When you were initially diagnosed with your kidney disease in 2000, was there any thought to just calling it quits, or were you completely determined to play again in the NBA?
MOURNING: Well obviously I can’t perform if I don’t have my health, so my health was the No. 1 priority. But at the same time in the back of my mind, I knew that if the doctors gave me the green light then I would make a commitment to come back and play again.
FSF: But weren’t you concerned about returning so soon, despite getting the green light from the doctors?
MOURNING: I had a year, and (former San Antonio Spurs player) Sean Elliott going through what he had gone through and getting back on the court gave me some promise that I could do it. But it came down to the doctors pretty much watching the overall progress of my rehabilitation and once I was cleared, I took advantage of the opportunity. It was a very difficult rehabilitation process but once I got my body strong again, I took advantage of it.
FSF: Why did you choose to return to the Heat after a stint with the New Jersey Nets? You had bigger offers from other teams to play as a starter.
MOURNING: I knew I had a small window of opportunity to accomplish that ultimate goal, and that was winning the championship. I knew that I had to put myself in the best case scenario that would allow me and my talents to contribute to a situation that would help me win that championship. Miami was the best scenario for that.
FSF: How thankful are you to still be with the Heat and to be able to continue having a role with the franchise?
MOURNING: Very rewarding, very thankful and very appreciative of the tutelage of Pat Riley. Very appreciative of the opportunity that Micky Arison and his family have given me. I’ve obtained a tremendous amount of basketball knowledge through my experiences and my coaches over the years and I still feel like I can contribute in some type of capacity to help this team remain a championship contender.
FSF: Now that you’re a Hall of Famer and have received all this recognition for your body of work, how would you like to be remembered as a player?
MOURNING: I think everybody that remembers my game … remembers me as a very hard working, determined, emotional player that played with a great deal of passion and played the game the right way. I’d liked to be remembered as a guy that worked the game the right way, played the game the right way, and sacrificed himself for his teammates to be successful.
You get out of this game what you put into it and I think I put my heart and soul into this game.