Alonzo Mourning would much rather be taking his intense competitive drive onto the basketball court than basking in the news of his Hall of Fame enshrinement.
"It’s hard to diminish that drive. The only thing that has diminished that drive was Father Time — Father Time is undefeated," the former Miami Heat center said Monday evening, hours after being named a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
"As I got older, that drive has diminished. In my mind, I feel like I can still do it, but obviously my body won’t allow me to do it because of age."
Now 44, Mourning will be inducted on Aug. 8 at Springfield, Mass. He’ll be joined by former Golden State/Sacramento guard and Fort Lauderdale product Mitch Richmond, former NBA and international player Sarunas Marciulionis, former college coaches Nolan Richardson (Arkansas) and Gary Williams (Maryland) as well as recently retired NBA commissioner David Stern.
Asked to name the thing of which he was most proud during a 15-year NBA career, Mourning chose his return from a late-2003 kidney transplant.
"There were a lot of people who doubted me, but I had some deep doubt, too," he said during a conference call with media members. "Going through that whole process and laying stretched out on that operating table and just seeing the images of that, there was some doubt in me that I would be able to come back and compete at a very high level.
"The thing I’m most proud of is that I broke through that particular obstacle in my life."
The Charlotte Hornets’ second overall pick out of Georgetown in ’92, Mourning was a defensive stalwart during his career. The 6-foot-10 center won two NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and made seven All-Star teams. He averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.
"I’m humbled and I’m truly honored to be able to stand here before you today and to know I’m going to be a part of such a prestigious group of individuals that helped pave the way for a lot of individuals to experience this. I’m very, very grateful," Mourning said at the announcement. "I stand here on the shoulders of so many other people."
Mourning mentioned former Georgetown coach John Thompson and Heat president Pat Riley among the people who "helped contribute so much to my life." The two Hall of Famers likely will stand next to their former pupil during ‘Zo’s induction ceremonies.
Mourning played with Miami from 1995 –- after a trade with Charlotte — until the kidney disease forced him to miss the 2002-03 season. After undergoing the transplant, Mourning resumed his career and eventually rejoined the Heat as a free agent in March 2005. He remained with Miami until retiring after the 2007-08 season.
"The reason I wasn’t satisfied (after my first 10 years) was because Pat Riley traded five guys and some picks to bring me to Miami, and I made a commitment to him," Mourning said. "I said, ‘Look, I’m in this to help Miami win a world championship.’
"I knew those first eight years were Hall of Fame numbers — 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks a game those first eight years. For me to end it in 2000, the way it happened, I felt like ‘You know what, I’m going through this for a reason.’"
The highpoint of Mourning’s Heat career came Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals in Dallas. He recorded five blocks, including one where he jumped over several players to deny a baseline-driving Jason Terry, to help Miami win the title.
"That moment kind of defines what my career was all about," he said. "It was about leaving it all out on the floor."
Riley, a former Los Angles Lakers and New York Knicks coach, was inducted in 2008. Gary Payton, who played two seasons with Miami, was a member of last year’s Hall of Fame class.
Richmond, who played at Boyd Anderson High School, averaged 21.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists during a 14-year career. He made six All-Star teams and won the 2002 NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I’m just ecstatic to represent the Hall," Richmond said at the announcement. "You can judge me, you can judge my game. I’m in the Hall, I don’t care."
Rounding out the 2014 Hall of Fame class are former Indiana Pacers coach and current team broadcaster Bob "Slick" Leonard and the ground-breaking Immaculata University women’s basketball team from 1972-74.
Honored posthumously were Nate "Sweetwater" Clifton, the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract, and Guy Rodgers, one of the NBA’s first assist leaders.