MIAMI — Alonzo Mourning would love to make the Basketball Hall of Fame. But he really wants to be remembered as a Hall of Famer in the game of life.
The former Miami Heat star center was thrilled to see former teammate Tim Hardaway named last month as a Hall of Fame finalist, with the class of 2013 to be announced in April. Next year, Mourning becomes eligible for the first time for enshrinement in Springfield, Mass.
“That’s the ultimate dream for every player who has played this game to be in the Hall of Fame,’’ Mourning said Friday in an interview with FOX Sports Florida. “It’s an honor to be able to do that, so if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I’m fine. I’m going to continue to do what I do. That’s the most important thing for me right now.
“Basketball is temporary. When it’s all said and done, we’re not going to be judged by what we’ve done on the basketball court or playing field, how nice our car is, how much money we have, how big our house is. We’re going to be judged by what we do for other people. That’s just what I believe and that’s how I live. If it doesn’t happen, that I don’t make to the Hall of Fame, trust me, I’m going to do the work that I do. It won’t change my perspective on life.’’
Mourning, who is is well regarded for his charity work, spoke Friday at Miami’s J.W. Marriott Marquis, where he held a basketball clinic on behalf of Marriott Rewards Premier Visa Signature Card from Chase. Cardholders who paid $750 got two nights at the hotel, admission to the Heat’s 98-91 Friday night win over Memphis, the clinic with Mourning and some other perks.
Mourning would be a no-brainer for the Hall had he not been diagnosed in the fall of 2000 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a disease of the kidneys that resulted in him having a kidney transplant in 2003. After being named to six All-Star Games in his first eight seasons and being one of the NBA’s most dominant centers, kidney trouble and other ailments enabled Mourning to play in only 341 of a possible 656 games from 2000-01 through his last season with the Heat in 2007-08.
Mourning spent his final years mostly coming off the bench. However, he was able to help the Heat to their first NBA title in 2006 as Shaquille O’Neal’s backup.
“I went eight years straight before I had to deal with a kidney issue,’’ said Mourning, 43, who is now vice president of player programs for the Heat in addition to running his Mourning Family Foundation, which assists South Florida youth. “Obviously, when that hit, it kind of slowed the process down. But fortunate enough, I was able to get back on the court and win a world championship and contribute to that. (The Hall of Fame) can decide what they want to do. I feel like I’ve done a lot for the game of basketball. I could have done more, but unfortunately my body wouldn’t allow me to do it.
“I played eight years straight where I was at 20 (points), 10 (rebounds) and three to four blocks a game, so those numbers speak for itself …. Those things pretty much came to a stop because I had to deal with my physical obstacles… (Had kidney problems not happened), I probably would have gone on to score 20,000 points like all the other guys have that have had careers without any interruption. But, every now and then, life raises its ugly head. You just deal with it and move on.’’
Mourning, who scored 14,311 career points while averaging 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, said he’s feeling great now. He said he’s thrilled to be able to make a difference through his organization, which he recently renamed from Alonzo Mourning Charities to also acknowledge his wife and three children, Alonzo III, Myka Sydney and Alijah Harden.
“You come into the world needing assistance,’’ said Mourning, whose foundation works with the educational development of 400 youths from second through 12th grade. “And, while you’re here, you’re not here by yourself, you’re here with your connection to other people… There’s a sense of responsibility there… That’s what I live by.’’
When Mourning isn’t dealing with his foundation, he’s working with the Heat on community issues. He’s a regular fixture at games.
Mourning was on the 1996-97 Heat team that went a franchise-best 61-21, won his ring in 2005-06 and watched closely as Miami claimed last year’s championship. But he believes this season’s Heat (42-14) could go down as the best team in franchise history.
“We have the best player on the planet (LeBron James) on the team and he’s playing at an extremely high level, and he’s making all the players around him better,’’ Mourning said. “I like our chances (to win the title). I like to think … it could possibly be the best (Heat) team ever. I hope they beat that 61.’’
That Miami team had the misfortune of running into Chicago, which had gone 69-13, in the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat lost 4-1.
That Heat outfit also featured Hardaway at point guard. Mourning was thrilled to see his former teammate named a Hall of Fame finalist and hopes he gets the nod when the 2013 class is announced April 8 at the Final Four in Atlanta.
“I’m very excited for him,’’ Mourning said. “I’m proud of him. Tim had an amazing career and he’s done a lot for the game of basketball and part of the reason my career was so successful was because of him. We kind of laid part of a foundation here in Miami for years and years.’’
No Miami player ever has made the Hall of Fame, although Gary Payton is a good bet to be enshrined this year. But Payton played just his final two seasons with the team.
As for a true Heat star, if Hardaway doesn’t get the call, it could be Mourning being the first in 2014.