Alonzo Mourning's top 10 moments with the Heat
Once Pat Riley arrived in Miami from New York in 1995, the Heat franchise had found its leader and driving force behind what would eventually become a championship organization. But the heart and soul of the team would arrive soon afterward, when Riley was able to swing a trade with the Charlotte Hornets and land future Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning as the centerpiece for a new era of Heat basketball.
With power, skill and an almost overwhelming drive and determination, Mourning immediately made a huge impact on the court for a young franchise desperate for a winning identity.
Nothing, not even a failed kidney, would stop him from helping the Heat win their first NBA championship in 2006, and he continues to make his presence felt not just within the franchise in his position as vice president of player programs and development but also with his charitable work in the South Florida community.
Join us for this look back on his greatest moments with the Heat:
10. GAME-WINNING DUNK VS. BUCKS CLINCHES NO. 3 SEED IN 2001 PLAYOFFS
Playing just his 12th game in his comeback bid from kidney disease in 2001, Mourning was able to catch a Dan Majerle inbounds pass from midcourt and dunk it against Ray Allen and the Milwaukee Bucks with 0.2 seconds left to clinch the No. 3 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. Mourning led the Heat with a season-high 25 points in their second-to-last regular season game to go with 16 rebounds for his most impressive performance in his return to the Heat after his initial diagnosis.
9. MOURNING'S BLOCK PARTY VERSUS THE PISTONS TO OPEN THE 2000 PLAYOFFS
Mourning set the tone for Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Playoffs against the Detroit Pistons at the new AmericanAirlines Arena with nine blocks, nine rebounds and 20 points. His block total matched his career high, and he set a franchise record for most blocks in a postseason game. With Mourning firing on all cylinders to lead a balanced team attack, the Heat - even without All-Star guard Tim Hardaway - were able to eliminate the Pistons, marking the first time the franchise was able to finish off a sweep.
8. TAKING A STEP FORWARD IN THE 1997 PLAYOFFS
Up until 1997, the Heat had failed to win a playoff series in their first nine seasons, but that finally changed with Mourning's leadership in the postseason. The Heat had already set a franchise record with 61 wins during the regular season when they eliminated the Orlando Magic in five games. The big man was an unstoppable force during the series, with 17 boards and 17 points in Game 3 when it appeared the Heat would sweep their state rivals. The Magic climbed back into the series, however, but Mourning scored 22 points in Game 5 to help his team advance in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The team followed that up by outlasting the Knicks in a memorable seven-game series before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in five games.
7. SHUTTING DOWN THE RIM VERSUS KNICKS
Though no longer the dominant force he was in his first stint with the Heat, Mourning turned back the clock in the 2005-06 season with two vintage performances against the hated New York Knicks. He matched his career high with nine blocks in an easy 107-94 victory over their rivals Nov. 28 and just a few months later he tallied eight in the span of just 22 minutes to help the championship-bound Heat beat New York 111-100.
6. SETTING A CAREER HIGH WITH 50 POINTS VS. WIZARDS
In his first season with the Heat, Mourning displayed the kind of dominance from a big man rarely witnessed by fans inside the old Miami Arena with a career-high 50 points against the Washington Bullets. He would reach the fifth-highest point total by a player in Heat history with ridiculous efficiency, hitting 17 of his 24 field goals and only missing one free throw out of 17 attempts to go along with 12 rebounds.
5. MOURNING SUFFERS CAREER-ENDING INJURY BUT REFUSES TO RIDE IN STRETCHER
In a heartbreaking end to a 15-year NBA career, Mourning would tear the patellar tendon in his right knee against the Atlanta Hawks in what was already planned to be his final season in 2007. Fittingly, the final play of his career was on defense, attempting to block Mario West when his knee buckled as he rose up. As one would expect from the old warrior, the 37-year-old refused to be carted off in a stretcher. "That's not the way I envisioned myself walking off the court for the last time in my career," he would later say. "I've been through so much in my life. If I had to crawl off the court I would have. Nobody was going to push me off on a stretcher off the court. That wasn't going to happen."
4. RETURNING TO THE HEAT AFTER HIS KIDNEY FAILURE
The year 2000 was undoubtedly the most emotional year for Mourning. In addition to the birth of his daughter, earning his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award and winning Olympic gold with Team USA in Sydney, Mourning was then diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, a potentially life-threatening kidney disease. Though many thought he'd never play again, he surprisingly returned to the court just five months and 69 games later. Though the Heat were just 8-8 upon his return to close out the season, as well as a subsequent first round sweep courtesy of his former team the Charlotte Hornets, no one could ever question his resolve.
3. JEFF VAN GUNDY ATTACHES HIMSELF TO MOURNING'S LEG DURING INFAMOUS 1998 BRAWL
With so much raw passion displayed out on the court, sometimes it manifested itself to the detriment of Mourning and the Heat. With just 1.4 seconds left in Game 4 of the hotly-contested 1998 first round series against the New York Knicks, Mourning got into it with Larry Johnson and as several players tried to break it up, former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy somehow ended up attached to Mourning's leg like a petulant child. Mourning would learn a valuable lesson to put his team first above his emotions. The second-seeded Heat ended up losing the series in the decisive Game 5, which he was suspended for.
2. MOURNING'S NO. 33 HEAT JERSEY RETIREMENT
"There it is, and there it will always be." With those words from Heat broadcaster Eric Reid on March 30, 2009, a giant replica of Mourning's jersey was hoisted up to the rafters at the AmericanAirlines Arena. An emotional Mourning teared up at the sight as fans roared, showing their undying appreciation for No. 33. He fittingly became the first Heat player to have his number retired, with the honor coming just two months after he officially retired from the game.
1. SEALING THE 2006 TITLE WITH 5 BLOCKS VS THE MAVERICKS IN GAME 6
In his greatest moment ever as a member of Heat, the big man came off the bench against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals to help deliver the final knockout punch in the Heat's quest for their first ever championship. No longer the stat-filling starter, Mourning brought his trademark intensity off the bench behind Shaquille O'Neal and every ounce of his energy was needed to put away the Mavs. His six rebounds and eight points were crucial, but it was the five blocks that ended up being the difference-maker to secure his first and only ring. The image of Mourning on his back, arms flailing about, after his monster block on Jason Terry in the final quarter of Game 6 will be forever etched into the minds of Heat fans forever. The defensive play exemplified everything Mourning stood for as a player and it came on the brightest stage in the twilight of his career.