In the end, Alonzo Mourning chose his health rather than another comeback, and the seven-time All-Star center officially retired on Thursday.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s my health,” Mourning said during a press conference at Miami’s American Airlines Arena. “My health is more important than anything.”
“So many of us take it for granted, underestimate it until something seriously happens to us. I’ve gone down with something seriously physically happening to me, and I can surely appreciate my health at this particular state that I’m in right now,” he said.
Mourning has not played since suffering a torn patella tendon in his right knee and a torn quadriceps in the same leg during a game against Atlanta on Dec. 19, 2007.
“I’m able to walk, I’m able to run, and I’m able to chase after my kids without a limp,” he said. “God willing, I’ll be able to live another 40 or 50 years, and I want to do it in a comfortable state. Right now I’m there.”
A former two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Mourning, widely respected for his extensive charity and community work, was forced out of the game in 2003 when he had to undergo a kidney transplant.
However, he surprised and encouraged many when he made a comeback.
Mourning was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease in 2000 and as his condition worsened he missed the 2002-2003 season.
With Miami not renewing his contract he became a free agent and signed for the New Jersey Nets before his illness forced his retirement in November 2003.
He received a replacement kidney from his cousin and after the transplant attempted to come back with the Nets but found his chances limited.
Mourning then headed back to Miami and helped the team to the 2006 title.
Mourning was rumored to be attempting another return but doctors told the 38-year-old that he would not be able to recover from the devastating knee injury.
During his 15 NBA seasons, Mourning, the second overall pick in the 1992 draft, averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.81 blocks, while shooting 52.7 per cent from the floor in 838 games with the Heat, Charlotte Hornets and New Jersey Nets.
Mourning was also a member of the gold medal-winning US Olympic team in 2000 and is tipped to be a future Hall of Fame member.