NBA Legend Alonzo ‘Zo’ Mourning’s Journey: Kidney Disease Patient to Health Advocate – a documentary

December 10, 2022
alonzo mourning documentary

Basketball player Alonzo Harding Mourning Jr., also known as Alonzo Mourning, hails from the United States. He played primarily for the Miami Heat throughout his 15 years in the National Basketball Association. Alonzo is renowned for his towering height and powerful, athletic physique. 

The athlete has established a reputation and built recognition for himself as one of the best basketball legends to ever represent the United States.  Alonzo is well-known for being a giant and goes by the nickname “Zo.” The majority of Mourning’s games were played at the center.

Table of Contents


Early Life 

On February 8, 1970, in Virginia (Chesapeake), the United States, Alonzo took his first breath. The moment he was born, he was given the name Alonzo Harding Mourning. His mother’s name is Julia Hadnot, and his father’s name is Alonzo Mourning Senior. As he grew up, the star had to deal with family issues. Every other day, he watched fights, and disputes between his father and mother since his parents’ relationship was not working out. Alonzo’s parents split up when he was ten years old, which is a sorrow. 

The young child was in a terrible circumstance since he never wanted to lose anyone from his parents. The following two years saw the birth of his sister, which reunited her parents. Unfortunately, his parents eventually decided to split. The young “Zo” had a tough decision. He had to choose between his father and his mother, Julia.  At age twelve, he had to deal with his parent’s divorce. They consequently sent the poor boy to another family, where there were 49 other kids in addition to him. Fanny Threat served as their “mother.” When Mourning was 16 years old, he went to the basketball summer camp where the top young athletes in the city practiced. Mourning later enrolled at Indiana River High School, where he joined a basketball team of kids.


High School Career

During his junior year at Virginia Indian River High School in Chesapeake, he directed the team to 51 consecutive victories and a state championship (1987). He scored 25 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked 12 shots a game as a senior. According to USA Today, Parade, Gatorade, and Naismith, he was awarded Player of the Year. Christian Laettner, Shawn Kemp, Billy Owens, Stanley Roberts, Kenny Williams, Rick Fox, and Malik Sealy were just a few of the players he beat out as the top recruit of the 1988 class.


College Career 

Mourning represented John Thompson at Georgetown University while playing collegiate basketball. As a rookie, he had an immediate impact, starting every game for the Hoyas and averaging 13.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. His most significant achievement was his leading position in total blocks per game (5.0) and blocked shots (169), both of which set NCAA records for a freshman. As a student, he averaged 21.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. He was split between Georgia Tech and Maryland University when choosing a school, but he eventually enrolled at Georgetown University. 

Alonzo participated in state contests while traveling with AUU Virginia and earned about 27 points there. 13 points were scored by Mourning in his first season with the Hoyas. The player drove his squad to the Big East Men’s Basketball Championship, where they lost to Duke University. Later, Alonzo switched to playing as a heavy forward instead of a center, changing his game position. 

Over the following two seasons, Mourning’s scoring and rebounding increased, but his shot blocking substantially decreased as his taller teammate Dikembe Mutombo became Georgetown’s main center, forcing Mourning to switch to the power forward position. Mourning struggled to play at first, but over time, he significantly improved. He, unfortunately, sustained an injury and had to sit out for the remainder of the campaign. 

Mourning returned to the starting center position after Mutombo declared for the 1991 NBA Draft, and he responded by having an outstanding senior season in 1991–1992. His friend Mutombo departed the university in 1991 to pursue a career in the NBA. Mourning, for his part, continued his studies. He once more played center and faced off against Shaquille O’Neal of LSU. He wanted to become the university’s top center player. 

Patrick Ewing, a retired basketball legend who is Jamaican-American, was Mourning’s hero. That season, he garnered multiple honors, including Big East Conference Player of the Year and Consensus First-Team All-American, while averaging 21.3 points, 5.0 blocks, and 10.7 rebounds per game. In addition, he received the Big East Def. He had already received the player of the Year title twice (as a freshman and again as a sophomore), sharing the award with Mutombo that year; Mutombo won the award alone in 1990-91. 

Mourning achieved the rare milestone of 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds at the end of his college career, finishing with 2,001 points and 1,032 rebounds. More impressively, he concluded his college career with 453 blocked shots, putting him in first place all-time in NCAA history. Interestingly, Patrick Ewing is credited by Georgetown with 493 blocks during his collegiate career, but blocked shots did not constitute an official NCAA statistic at that time. As a result, Mourning was never named the all-time leader in Georgetown history.

NBA Career Charlotte Holmes

The Charlotte Hornets chose Mourning in the 1992 NBA draft. Alonzo averaged 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game during his first season, earning him a spot on the league’s all-rookie team. Additionally, he participated in the rookie of the year voting and finished second to Shaquille O’Neal. 

The finest scoring performance by a rookie in Hornets history came from Mourning. He and Shaquille O’Neal made history by being the first NBA rookies to average over 20 points and over ten rebounds in their first season. 

The Charlotte Hornets chose Mourning in the 1992 NBA draft. Alonzo averaged 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game during his first season, earning him a spot on the league’s all-rookie team. Additionally, he participated in the rookie of the year voting and finished second to Shaquille O’Neal. The finest scoring performance by a rookie in Hornets history came from Mourning. He and Shaquille O’Neal made history by being the first NBA rookies to average over 20 points and over ten rebounds in their first season. 

The most memorable moment of Mourning’s debut season was in Game Four of a first-round playoff series to compete with the Boston Celtics on May 5, 1993. With.4 seconds left in the game, he made a 20-footer to give the Hornets a 104-103 win and a 3-1 series lead. Mourning averaged 23.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game in nine postseason games as the Hornets fell to the New York Knicks in round two in five games. 

Mourning played in just 60 games the following season, recording nearly identical averages of 21.5 points, 3.1 blocks, and 10.2 rebounds per game, but the Hornets failed to make the playoffs. In the 1994–1995 season, Alonzo’s teammate Larry Johnson helped them win 50 games and make the playoffs. In terms of points (21.3 per game), blocked shots (2.92 per game), and rebounds (9.9 per game) field goal %, Mourning was the top performer (.519). He was consequently selected for the 1995 NBA All-Star Game, where he contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Unfortunately, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Charlotte Hornets in the opening playoff game. On the other hand, Mourning produced flawless stats: 22 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per contest. 

The Charlotte Hornets extended him an $11 million, 7-year contract in November 1995, but he declined. As a result, the organization exchanged him for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and Khalid Reeves, together with reserves Pete Myers and LeRon Ellis.


Miami Heat 

The Hornets dealt Mourning, along with backups Pete Myers and LeRon Ellis, on November 3, 1995, in a trade for Khalid Reeves, Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and a first-round pick in the 1996 NBA Draft after Mourning rejected Charlotte’s offer of a contract extension worth $11.2 million on average over seven years. Mourning joined the Miami Heat as a player. Alonzo Mourning had a stellar rookie campaign, averaging 23,2 points, 10,4 rebounds, and 2,7 blocks per game for the Pat Riley-coached Heat. Alonzo was joined by all-star point guard Tim Hardaway, acquired via a midseason trade, in 1996 as they both participated in the NBA All-Star Game. An All-Star point guard, Tim Hardaway joined Mourning in the 1996 NBA All-Star Game after being acquired in a midseason trade. Mourning agreed to a seven-year, $105 million deal with the Heat in July 1996. In the 1996–97 season, Mourning scored 19.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game as the Heat went on to win a then franchise-record 61 games and place second in the Eastern Conference behind the Bulls, the defending champions. Miami progressed to the conference semifinals against the Knicks in the playoffs after defeating the Orlando Magic in five games, which heightened the competition with the Heat and the New York Knicks. The Knicks led the series 3-1, but when a fight broke out between Charlie Ward and P. Late in Game 5, J. Brown received many bans. Mourning led Miami to its first-ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they will take on Chicago, with 28 points in Game Six, followed by a 22-point, 12-rebound play performance in Game 7. 

The Heat won Game 4 87-80 thanks to Mourning, who gave the Bulls a 3-0 series lead. However, the Bulls eliminated the Heat after losing Game 5 100-87. Mourning participated in 58 games for the Heat during the 1997–98 season, winning 55 games while averaging 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per contest. Mourning was suspended following a brawl between Mourning and a former teammate in Game 4 of the season, leading to Miami losing to the Knicks in the first round, and he could not play in the pivotal Game 5. To stop the fight, they also spotted Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy hanging from Mourning’s leg during the altercation. The Heat won 31 games in the 50-game schedule that was reduced due to the lockout the following year, and Mourning won his first of two back-to-back defensive players of the year awards after dominating the league in blocks with 3.9 per game.

 The Heat lost to the Knicks in the first round despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference. Allan Houston’s last-second jumper in Game 5 gave the Knicks the series victory. Averaging 3.7 throughout the 1999–2000 season, Mourning once again led the NBA in blocks and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Miami met the Knicks in the second round after finishing the regular season with 52 victories. But the Heat fell to the Knicks in a winner-take-all game for the third straight year, this time in Game 7. Mourning received a catastrophic renal ailment diagnosis shortly after competing for the gold-medal-winning American national team in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Mourning, who was initially ruled out for the duration of the season, came back for the Heat’s final 13 games and helped them win 50 games despite playing little. 

The Hornets, however, swept Miami 3-0 in the opening round. Mourning made his final All-Star appearance in the 2001–2002 season, appearing in 75 games while averaging 15.7 points, 2.5 blocks, and 8.4 rebounds per contest. Despite this, the Heat finished with a 36-46 record and missed the playoffs. Due to Mourning’s ongoing renal condition, he was forced to miss the 2002–03 season, and without their star center, the Heat only won 25 games and missed the playoffs once more.


New Jersey Nets

In 2003, he signed a free-agent contract with the New Jersey Nets. Mourning quit the NBA on November 25 due to his health. He got a successful kidney transplant in December. He resumed his work with the Nets in 2004 and joined them for the 2004–2005 season. However, he was dissatisfied with the team and said he intended to quit. He lost his cool when New Jersey sold Kenyon Martin, a friend of his. He was sent to the Toronto Raptors on December 17, 2004. He was purchased out of his contract on February 11, 2005, for the remaining 9 million dollars because he didn’t want to perform for them. Later, representatives of the Raptors team said he did not meet the required medical standards to represent the team. Mourning received the veteran’s minimum salary from the Miami Heat to finish the season.


Comeback to Miami Heat 

The Miami Heat welcomed Mourning back on March 1, 2005. He served as a standby. Mourning was limited in how long she could play by the illness. They acquired and kept the second-best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference throughout the 2004–2005 season. Alonzo came in third place for shot blocks (2.66 per game). The squad won the Nets in the playoffs with 21 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. 

They met the Washington Wizards in the next round. In place of the injured O’Neal, Mourning finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. Unfortunately, the reigning champion Detroit Pistons defeated the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. On June 17, 2005, the Heat exercised their club option on Mourning as they reorganized their squad, adding more seasoned players like Antoine Walker and Gary Payton, competing for championships. After O’Neal hurt himself early on, Mourning took over as the Heat’s primary center. He has since continued to play as their backup center. Mourning played in 65 games, starting in 20, averaging 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game to rank third in the league despite being a reserve. As a defensive player who came off the bench for Miami during the playoffs, Mourning continued to excel as the Heat got past the Bulls and the Nets before taking down the Pistons in six games to reach the 2006 NBA Finals, which was the first NBA Finals in the franchise’s history and the first for Mourning.

 Dwyane Wade’s outstanding play helped Miami come back from a 2-0 hole to win all three of its home games. In Game 6 in Dallas, Mourning stepped off the bench to help Miami win its first NBA title in franchise history with eight points, six rebounds, and a team-high five blocks. Despite getting offers of higher salaries from other teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, Mourning stated that he would return to the Heat to defend their championship in the 2006–07 season. Mourning declared in 2007 that he would play one more season (15th overall) with the Heat. It will undoubtedly be my final year, Mourning said. 

During the first quarter, on December 19, during the Atlanta Hawks’ 117-111 overtime loss, Mourning nearly ripped his patellar tendon in his right knee. Before that, Mourning had started the season strong, scoring 6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.75 blocks for only 16 minutes per 24 games. Alonzo missed many games due to a knee injury. He rose to the position of Heat’s all-time leading scorer during the 2007–08 season (which Dwyane Wade eventually surpassed.)



Alonzo formally announced his retirement in 2009. He claimed that he had already accomplished everything he could for the game. To celebrate such a talented player, the club planned a retirement ceremony, which took place on March 30, 2009. Mourning will become the very first Heat player to have his number 33 jersey retired when the team makes the announcement. Former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, f Patrick Ewing, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Heat players Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade, and Heat head coach Pat Riley was among the attendees. Every highlight included information on the ceremony. 

Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, where he was named in May 2009, recognizes athletes, coaches, and officials who have made a difference in the sports community in southeast Virginia. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame inducted him the following April in honor of his exceptional high school, collegiate, and professional career and his dedication to community service in the communities where he has lived and worked his whole life. Mourning declared his return to the Heat in the latter part of June 2009. He currently serves as vice president of player initiatives and development, which includes community involvement and training up-and-coming athletes. On the floor of the White House, Mourning participated in a basketball game in 2011 in honor of Barack Obama’s 50th birthday. Shane Battier, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Maya Moore, Joakim Noah, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Obama’s high school classmates were also there at the game in addition to Mourning. 

Bill Russell and Kobe Bryant watched the event. Mourning’s induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will occur on August 8, as was announced on April 7, 2014. Mourning was inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame on August 30 after being selected on March 26, 2019, and named on the same day.

Off the Court Life

Personal Life 

Alonzo and Monique Exposito were linked from 2009 through 2013. After they split up, Mourning met Tracy Mourning (Wilson), the love of his life, whom he later married. Both had a long relationship before tying the knot to begin a beautiful married life. The couple has been blessed with nine lovely children. His two sons are Alonzo III (often known as Trey) and Alijah. Myka Syndey, his daughter, is very dear to him. Like his illustrious father, Trey is also a successful professional basketball player. To honor his retired father, he continues to don jersey number 33. The family resides in Pinecrest, Florida, where they lead an opulent lifestyle. Since 2012, the family has lived in a $4.5 million, two-story, 9,786-square-foot home in Pinecrest, Florida. Muggsy Bogues is one of Alonzo’s best buddies; they met while playing and grew close.

Charities Activities 

Alonzo Mourning, a seven-time NBA All-Star, is also an All-Star humanitarian. His Alonzo Mourning Charities, Inc. was founded in 1997 to assist children and families in dangerous situations. Following his Focal Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) diagnosis, Mourning started the Zo’s Fund for Life campaign, which raises money for FSGS research, education, and therapeutic assistance for individuals who cannot afford it. He backs The NephCure Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing FSGS cures. Alonzo is one of the Athletes for Hope’s founders. Alonzo’s initiative for Miami’s poor youth, the Overtown Youth Center, was started in 2003. The Overtown Youth Center (OYC) aims to uplift, inspire, and enrich the lives of children and families in Overtown. By offering various programs, from academic support and enrichment opportunities to practical life skill classes and activities, they work daily to enhance the lives of young people.

 The OYC staff is committed to giving kids as many opportunities as possible to reach their full potential. OYC addresses gaps in education, socialization, and emotional development for young people growing up in challenging neighborhoods. Mourning assisted in bringing attention to a three-year-old youngster who required a liver transplant. Mourning has helped others who are less fortunate than himself without seeking praise. In Charlotte, North Carolina, he participated in the construction of basketball courts in underprivileged areas. He visited schools and ran kids’ basketball clinics in South Africa alongside Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. Zo’s Summer Groove, a charity feast, concert, and basketball game, was started by Mourning. Mourning engaged in the NBA’s Healthy Family America campaign and served as the league’s national spokesperson against child abuse.  Mourning received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the Professional Basketball Writers Association in 2001-2002 for his outstanding volunteer work.

Sickness Battle Journey

Mourning, who was used to having a lot of energy and endurance, found himself getting exhausted and weaker with time. In 2000, he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). This chronic kidney illness prevents the kidney from filtering toxins out of the body, resulting in renal failure and anemia, a related disorder that depletes the body of red blood cells. There is no single origin of FSGS; it is a rare and incurable sickness that was thought to be incurable until the early 1990s. 

According to studies, FSGS primarily affects members of the black population. For a period, Mourning’s basketball career was aided by medication. He appeared in 88 games for the Miami Heat from 2001 to 2002 and 12 games for the New Jersey Nets during the 2003 season. Mourning’s sickness, however, had progressed to the point where he could no longer participate on the court by November 2003. Mourning was forced to retire when medical testing revealed that his renal function had deteriorated and that chemical abnormalities in his blood made it dangerous for him to continue playing. 

Mourning’s retirement was announced by Rick Thorn, the Nets’ general manager, who stated, “It is with profound sorrow that I make this statement…. Alonzo is a true champion and a brave player who strove to defy the odds by returning to the NBA. Unfortunately, he will be unable to continue his basketball career due to his medical condition. We are thinking of him and praying for him as he fights this sickness.” Mourning immediately began searching for a kidney donor. According to the Kidney and Urology Foundation of America, the average wait time for a kidney transplant in the United States is two to four years. Many individuals, however, stepped forward to offer Mourning one of their kidneys. However, by December 2003, Mourning’s long-lost cousin was a good match, and they arranged transplant surgery. Mourning expressed gratitude for the massive outpouring of support and encouraged individuals who offered him a kidney to continue their kindness to others in need. On December 23, 2003, Mourning was discharged from the hospital with his replacement kidney. When asked if he would ever play professional basketball again, Mourning told a source, “I haven’t even considered that.”

 My entire concentration has been simply keeping this kidney in my body.” Mourning’s recovery is eagerly awaited. “Alonzo, that’s a very, very special player,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank told the New York Post of Mourning’s future. “So, you don’t forget. And we think of Alonzo every day… He’ll be back with us, hopefully in some manner, at some point. We haven’t discussed it, but… if everything looks well with his health, we’d love to have him around.” Whether or not he returns to the NBA, he will continue to motivate people by living his life to the fullest. Mourning enjoys spending time with his wife, Tracy, and their son, Alonzo III, whom he refers to as Trey. Mourning considers his family the most beautiful thing he has ever. He believes his son has given him a more remarkable ability to deal with difficulties. And Mourning has undoubtedly had challenges.