Former NBA player and one of the best defensive stoppers in the league, Alonzo Mourning, made a guest appearance on the Knuckleheads podcast to discuss some of the most memorable moments from his illustrious career. Playing for Georgetown University, he was already used to playing against great NBA centers like Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo, who practiced with him all the time. Still, another great big was the first guy to show Mourning he came into the big boys league, and it was none other than Rik Smiths who played for the Indiana Pacers at the time.
Mourning said his first NBA game caused a lot of nervousness in him, and on top of that, he missed training camp because of a situation with his contract. He didn’t even meet the rest of his teammates properly or the plays the team is running.
It was Rik Smiths. He was the first person to give it to me. It was my first game, and I missed training camp with the Hornets. They were trying to get my contract right, so I missed all of training camp. So, literally, when the contract was done training camp was over with. I flew to Charlotte, and they took me from the airport with my bags straight to the team playing.Alonzo Mourning. via Knuckleheads Podcast
Mourning had the confidence and the skillset to dominate the NBA right away, but like everything in life, some people need a bit more time to get properly adjusted to the new environment. He said the biggest obstacle for him playing against Smits was his size. Standing at 7’4″ and weighing in at around 280 pounds, Smits was a true giant and incredibly skilled big man for his size. Mourning still remembers that game vividly and understand he underperformed against Smits.
We played Indiana the next day, and I was nervous as hell. I knew I was prepared because playing against Dikembe and Patrick all those years; I knew I was prepared for the league. So many butterflies in my stomach. I remember scoring 13 points that game, and I had to guard Rik Smits, and I was giving about six or seven inches. Rik Smits was a big boy. It was hard to move him out of there. I was giving up six, seven inches, and around 30 pounds. He gave it to me that game.Alonzo Mourning. via Knuckleheads Podcast
Nevertheless, one bad game didn’t allow him to feel discomfort because he knew he belongs in the NBA, and soon enough, he proved it. Mourning was second in voting for The Rookie of The Year award only behind Shaquille O’Neal after averaging 20 points and over ten rebounds per game for the entire season.
But once that game kind of broke the ice and I got my feet wet in the league for the next three, four weeks, I went on a tear. I was averaging 20 & 10 a game. I got this now; I figured it out.Alonzo Mourning. via Knuckleheads Podcast