The Buffalo Bills were in the midst of their Four Falls. A Canadian team won the World Series. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the class of the NBA. The sports world was fascinating in 1992, but the political landscape was fascinating also.
As George H.W. Bush entered the end of his presidency, a Georgetown alum from Arkansas named Bill Clinton was set to take the oval office.
Meanwhile, another Hoya was set to make the leap a higher level too. Today’s Big East Lottery Look Back will focus on Georgetown legend Alonzo Mourning.
Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, Mourning was just one name on a laundry list of players from the DMV to play for John Thompson and the Hoyas. In his senior season at Chesapeake’s Indian River High School, Mourning averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds per game en route to being named the USA Today Player of the Year.
Mourning’s freshman year at Georgetown saw he and sophomore Dikembe Mutombo become an absolute force down low.
In Mourning's third game at Georgetown, he recorded a triple-double (the first in Georgetown history) with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 blocks. 11 blocks would stand as a school record for... two months, before Mutombo blocked 12 against St. John’s.
By the end of the season, Mourning had blocked 169 shots, which was second most in a season in NCAA history at that point, behind David Robinson’s 207 in 1985.
Unfortunately for Mourning and the Hoyas, they fell to Duke in the Elite Eight.
Mourning and Mutombo continued to thrive the next season, however. Mourning scored 16.5 points per game and grabbed 8.5 rebounds per game during his sophomore season. Mourning also made a habit of getting to the free throw line, recording ten different games with ten or more made free throws. Georgetown’s season ended with a second round loss to future Big East foe Xavier in the NCAA Tournament.
By Mourning’s junior season, he was firmly on the national radar. However, as conference play opened, Mourning injured the arch of his foot. He missed most of the next two months, and the Hoyas finished 8-8 in Big East play and 19-13 overall, their worst record since joining the Big East in 1979.
Georgetown still made the NCAA Tournament, though, and disposed of Vanderbilt in the first round. Then they fell to UNLV in the second round, and for the second straight season, the Hoyas bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the first weekend. With Mutombo’s eligibility expired, Mourning had one more chance to make some noise, but he’d have to do it alone.
Mourning opened his senior season with his second career triple-double, recording 32 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks against Hawaii Loa. Two weeks later, he was one block short of a triple-double against Delaware State, finishing with 21 points, 22 rebounds, and nine blocks. Mourning was on a mission. He was named the 1992 Big East Player of the Year, and the Hoyas beat South Florida to open the NCAA Tournament. They fell to Florida State in the second round, though, and Mourning’s college career came to an unceremonious conclusion.
As the 1992 NBA Draft arrived, the Orlando Magic selected Shaquille O’Neal with the first overall pick. Mourning, the best player remaining on the board, went #2 to the Charlotte Hornets. Mourning’s first NBA season saw him pick up right where he left off at Georgetown, averaging 21.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game. He made the All-Rookie team, but finished second to O’Neal in Rookie of the Year voting. Mourning also became the Hornets’ all-time blocked shots leader... in his 49th career game.
Mourning played a total of three seasons with the Hornets before being traded to the Miami Heat after rejecting a contract extension. He averaged 21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, and and 3.2 blocks per game in his three seasons in Charlotte.
With the addition of Alonzo Mourning, the Pat Riley-led Heat looked to be a possible threat to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference. Mourning averaged 23.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in his first season in Miami, but the Heat were swept out of the playoffs by the 72-win Bulls.
In 1996-97, Mourning led the Heat to a franchise record 61 victories. The Heat disposed of their in-state rivals, the Orlando Magic, in five games, before facing off with the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Knicks took a 3-1 series lead before Mourning and Charles Oakley got into a fight. Following the fight, Mourning played like a man possessed, leading the Heat to three straight wins and sending them to their first conference finals in franchise history. While the Heat would fall in five games to the Bulls, Mourning just kept getting better and better.
Mourning took a step back in 1997-98, as injuries forced him to play just 58 games en route to a disappointing five game first round loss to the Knicks. Then, the NBA Lockout came.
The Lockout turned out to be a blessing for Mourning, as he was able to rest and recover. He averaged 20.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per game in the shortened season, and collected his first career Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The next season, Mourning won his second DPOY, averaging 21.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.7 blocks per game. The Heat swept the Pistons in the playoffs before falling to the Knicks, and Mourning won a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics with Team USA.
Everything was going great for Mourning. Then, later in the offseason, he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease. As a result, Mourning played just 13 games in 2000-01.
He was able to get back to form, slightly, in 2001-02, playing 75 games and averaging 15.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, but his kidney condition worsened over the offseason, causing him to miss the entire 2002-03 season. As a result of his medical uncertainty, the Heat let his contract expire. In his time with Miami, Mourning averaged 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.
After missing the 2002-03 season, Mourning signed with the New Jersey Nets for 2003-04. However, after just 12 games, Mourning retired from the NBA due to complications with his kidney disease. In November 2003, Mourning underwent a kidney transplant. Mourning kept training, and made the Nets roster. However, midway through the season, Mourning had grown frustrated with his lack of usage. The Nets traded Mourning to the Raptors, but he never reported and Toronto bought his contract out.
In March of 2005, Mourning returned to the Miami Heat as a back up to the man who was drafted before him in 1992, Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal suffered an injury in the 2005-06 season which saw Mourning start 20 of the 65 games he played. The Heat soared into the playoffs as one of the favorites in the East. After defeating the Dallas Mavericks in six games, Mourning finally had his NBA championship.
Mourning battled injuries for the next two seasons before ultimately deciding to (officially) retire in 2009. One month after his retirement, he became the first Heat player to have his jersey retired.
In 2014, Alonzo Mourning was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.