Since entering the league in 1992, Alonzo Mourning never had a light workday and played every single game with an incredibly high level of intensity. In fact, “Zo” was best known in the NBA for his notable physicality and toughness inside the court.
However, Mourning is still human after all. And while no big man was really able to completely dominate him inside the paint, a career-ending knee injury managed to get the better of him.
Tough till the end
On his 25th game during the 2007-08 season for the Miami Heat, Mourning, who was famous for chasing opponents for a block, jumped in an attempt to swat Atlanta Hawks’ Mario West. From afar, and according to Mourning himself, it looked like he “slipped.” Little did he know, the patellar tendon in his right knee was already torn. Right there and then, “Zo” knew it was all over.
“When I planted, I felt like my foot slipped,” Mourning told ESPN. “It happened so fast though. It really did. I didn’t even watch the tape. From what everybody else told me that was watching it, they said it looked like I slipped.”
Aside from the pain caused by the thought that it could be the last game of his career, Mourning’s knee was also tearing him apart emotionally. However, he refused to leave the court on a stretcher. Instead, he pushed himself to make it back to his feet.
With the help of his teammates, “Zo” managed to stand back up and limped it off, earning a standing ovation from the crowd in the process.
“That’s not the way I envisioned myself walking off the court for the last time in my career,” Mourning explained. “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.”
The Heat legend says goodbye
Unfortunately, the inevitable happened, and that December game against the Hawks officially became Mourning’s final NBA game. He then became a free agent but has maintained close ties with the Miami Heat organization.
After spending more than a year rehabbing, “Zo” decided to call it a career. A year later, the Heat paid tribute to Mourning and retired his No. 33 jersey, making the electrifying big man the first player in the franchise’s history to receive the said honor.
“After 16 years I truly feel its best I retire,” he told a news conference in 2009 via Reuters. “At 38 I feel like I’ve physically done all I can for this game. God knows it’s been an amazing ride.”
Surely, it’s not how Mourning pictured his illustrious career to end. Nevertheless, he still walked away from the game a true legend, especially in the hearts of the Miami faithful.