In 2003 Alonzo Mourning found out he had a severe kidney condition, threatening his basketball career. The condition is called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis is the leading cause of kidney failure in adults. Medication and dialysis are the first options, but if they don’t give positive results, then a kidney transplant is necessary.
Usually, you look for close family members as potential donors, but in Mourning’s case, a friend and rival didn’t hesitate and immediately offered to donate a kidney if necessary. Like Mourning, Patrick Ewing attended Georgetown University, and as they ended up in New York and Miami, the two had a lot of big clashes in the Eastern Conference. But when Ewing found out about Morning’s troubles, he said the following.
“You know I will always be there for him. If my kidney matches, I’ll be happy to donate one. If it comes down to that. He knows that.”
It didn’t come down to that at the end, but the story behind Mourning’s kidney is equally fascinating. In 2003 his grandmother was gravely ill, and one of the people who came to visit was a retired U. S. Marine, Jason Cooper. Cooper didn’t see Mourning for 25 years, but when Mourning’s father told Cooper Alonzo will have to retire from basketball due to his condition, Cooper started contemplating donating a kidney to his estranged cousin.
The doctors performed tests, it turned out the two were a match, and on December 19, 2003, Alonzo Mourning received James Cooper’s left kidney. Mourning would return to the NBA, where made a solid impact coming from the bench, and even won a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. He was never the same player as before when he was one of the best two-way centers in the league. He used his experience to have a longer career than anyone initially expected after his kidney surgery.