I had planned another kind of post today, but it will wait. This one’s for ‘Zo.
Being a D.C. girl, I loved watching the Georgetown Hoyas. Big John Thompson always had quality centers that he coached and mentored from freshman year through to their professional careers in the NBA. Their claim to fame was as fierce defenders and shot blocking fools. I sat in “Rejection Row” a couple of times and watched these guys frustrate their opponents time and again. Patrick Ewing, Deke Mutombo, and Alonzo Mourning epitomized basketball “warrior” to me.
So, when these guys went into the NBA, I was an instant fan of their respective teams. I loved to watch the sweat pour from Pat’s face until there were puddles on the floor whenever he stood still long enough for the water to accumulate. And Deke’s finger wag always cracked me up. (I used to use it on dates, but that’s a story for another post.) And I remember him laid out on the court holding the ball in pure joy when the Nuggets upset the Sonics in that first round series of the ‘94 playoffs. But, of those centers Alonzo was my favorite. Dude was a crazy shot blocker. He didn't have the finger wag but you could just see the uncertainty in the eyes of a guy thinking about going to the rack. 'Zo instilled fear.
So when Alonzo came to Miami as new coach Pat Riley’s big acquisition, I was an instant fan of the Miami Heat. I anguished right along with the team in the intense battles with the Knicks, and shed a tear or two that year they lost to Jordan’s Bulls. I worried like he was my brother when I learned of ‘Zo’s kidney ailment. I was so proud of his miraculous come back from a kidney transplant. And when the Heat won the championship in '06, I think I felt most for Alonzo. After all he'd been through, it was great to see him hug that trophy.
I won’t “tribute-ize” ‘Zo, that’s been done very well here. But I will say, after seeing him refuse to be carted off the court on a stretcher, for what might be his last day in a Heat uniform, that I realize that it was Alonzo Mourning that made me love the Heat, made this team my team. Miami and South Florida is better for his presence as a player and a man. Thanks, 'Zo.