Founder of Alonzo Mourning Charities (AM Charities)
NBA champion (2006) Miami Heat
7-Time NBA All-Star (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002)
Miami Heat franchise all-time leading scorer
Drafted second in the 1992 NBA Draft, second only to Shaquille O'Neal
Member of 1994 gold medal team, Dream Team II
Won a gold medal for the U.S. at the 2000 Olympics
Georgetown University, BA, 1992
3-Time All-American at Georgetown University
Alonzo Mourning: Ultimate Warrior
By Terri Simmons
The 700 Club
THE EARLY YEARS
Alonzo Mourning grew up a carefree kid in Chesapeake, Virginia; at least until the age of 10, when his parents’ marriage fell apart. He was born to teenage parents, but doesn’t usually discuss the details of their private lives out of respect to them.
Reacting to a negative family atmosphere, he became a rebellious kid, caused mayhem at school and tumbled down a bad cycle of causing trouble no matter what punishment he would receive.
“It got to the point where my parents sought some professional help for all of us,” he said. “One day as we sat in a counseling session, I came to understand that even though I loved my mom and my dad, I needed to find a new living situation, whatever that might be.”
Alonzo took note of how his situation at home affected him, and of how it was a potential threat to his success in life. At 10-years-old, he knew he needed to do something for himself because he wasn’t comfortable with the environment he was in at home.
“I was very angry. It wasn’t like I needed to be admitted or anything, but I decided that a real and serious change might be preferable,” he said.
If a child felt uncomfortable at home, back then, in the State of Virginia, the social services system often gave the child a choice of living arrangements; Alonzo chose to live in a group home. After his parents were fully divorced, the tension between Alonzo’s mom and dad worsened. Alonzo did not want to return home, so he asked a family judge to place him into full-time social services.
Alonzo said he wanted to go into foster care. He was moved to a middle-class neighborhood and into the home of Fannie Threet, a woman in her late 50s at the time, whom over the course of her life raised 49 kids – most of them foster kids.
“Once I walked in, I never wanted to walk out. And I didn’t. That’s where I lived until I went off to college,” he said.
Alonzo attended Georgetown University on a basketball scholarship, and he thrived under the mentorship and coaching of John Thompson. Alonzo’s years at Georgetown were filled with hardships and successes; and after graduating from Georgetown University in 1992, he became the second pick in the 1992 NBA draft.
In 2000, Alonzo Mourning was on top of the world. He had a huge contract with the NBA’s Miami Heat, a new Olympic gold medal, and a second beautiful child all to go with fame and fabulous fortune. But it was also then that he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable and degenerative kidney disease, Focal Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).
“Your life can change in a single instant, at the most unexpected time in the most routine manner,” he said. “One second you have a list of concerns and challenges and plans to deal with. The next second that all seems trivial and God is laying down a challenge; a challenge you never saw coming.”
Rocked by reality, Alonzo’s will was tested to its limits. But true to his nature, Alonzo vowed to overcome FSGS and to help raise awareness for the disease. He led a campaign to fight FSGS and raised $2 million for research, education and testing.
Medication helped Alonzo continue his basketball career for a time. He played 88 games with the Miami Heat from 2001 to 2002, and another 12 games during the 2003 season with the New Jersey Nets. But by November of 2003, his illness had advanced to the point where he could no longer compete on the court. Medical tests indicated that his kidney function had deteriorated and that the chemical imbalances in his blood made it dangerous for him to continue playing, and he was forced to retire.
Rick Thorn, general manager of the Nets, announced Alonzo's retirement, saying, "It is with great sadness that I make this announcement... Alonzo is a true champion and a very courageous athlete who attempted to defy the odds with his comeback to the NBA. Unfortunately, his medical condition will not allow him to continue his basketball career. Our thoughts and prayers are with him as he continues his fight against this disease."
RESILIENCE: FOCUS AND TRIUMPH
Alonzo immediately started seeking a donor for a kidney transplant. The Kidney and Urology Foundation of America reports the average wait in America for a kidney transplant is two to four years. But many people came forward to offer Alonzo one of their own kidneys. However, by December of 2003, a cousin Alonzo hadn’t seen since childhood proved to be a good match and transplant surgery was scheduled. Grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support, Alonzo encouraged those who offered him a kidney to extend their generosity toward others in need.
Alonzo was released from the hospital with his new kidney on December 23, 2003. But one day after surgery, Pastor Willie Alfonso visited Alonzo in his hospital room to talk with him. And though Alonzo had leaned on God for years, he wasn’t sure where he stood with God. It was at this time, that there in that bed, Alonzo reaffirmed his life’s commitment to Christ. The walk with God is a tough walk, he says, because there are many obstacles.
“But I know I have to continue to try and to do certain things because I made that commitment to God in that hospital bed,” Alonzo said.
When asked if he would likely ever play professional basketball again, he told the ESPN website: "I haven't even thought about that. All of my focus has been on really just trying to keep this kidney in my body."
In 2004, Alonzo started practicing with the Nets again, and made the team's regular season roster for a part of the season. However, he did not play a significant role with the Nets, and was traded to the Toronto Raptors in December of 2004. Toronto released Alonzo before the season’s end, saying he did not meet the medical conditions to play for the team. He ended up finishing that season with the Miami Heat having resigned with them in 2005.
Because of physical limitations, Alonzo’s minutes with the Miami Heat were reduced, but he was still a steady contributor. His tenacious defense, steady offense, and all around hustle helped the Heat gain and maintain the second-best record in the NBA's Eastern conference during the 2005-06 season; his intensity had earned him the title "The Ultimate Warrior" amongst Miami Heat fans. Alonzo finished the 2005-2006 regular season ranking third in blocked shots at 2.66 per game, despite only playing 20 minutes per contest. The Miami Heat and Alonzo finally won the elusive NBA Championship in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.
In 2007, Alonzo announced he would return for one more year with the Heat and his 15th season. He said that it would definitely be his last year. After starting the season on a solid note, Alonzo tore his patellar tendon in his right knee during an NBA game in Atlanta. The injury, which occurred on the fourth anniversary of his successful kidney transplant, was said to be career-threatening, but rumors have persisted about a return for the 2008-2009 season. Alonzo said that this wasn't the way he wanted to end his career, considering all he had been through already.
Alonzo is the founder of Alonzo Mourning Charities (AM Charities), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) public fundraising foundation. AM Charities' mission is to encourage the educational development of our youth by creating programs and youth enrichment centers that promote positive change in low socioeconomic communities.
Since 1997, AM Charities has raised more than $6.5 million for various programs that aid in the development of children and their families.
In addition to supporting other non-profit organizations, Alonzo has focused his attention to stimulating the development of youth enrichment centers. With the help of donors, Alonzo opened the first center in 2003 in the historic area of Overtown, in South Florida, known as the Overtown Youth Center.
A major component of AM Charities is the Honey Shine Mentoring Program that works to empower young girls to shine as women. The bi-weekly workshops and summer camps that make up the program help develop and nurture the mind, body, and soul of young women by providing experiences that enlighten and create balance in their lives.
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