Heat will retire Mourning's jersey
The Heat will retire Mourning's No. 33 in a halftime ceremony March 30, when Miami hosts the Orlando Magic. His will be the first Heat jersey to be retired by the team, which has previously put the numbers of Michael Jordan and Dan Marino on the arena wall.
But it's long been Miami's plan to make Mourning the first Heat player to receive the honor.
"It's fitting that he has the first jersey retired in the Heat arena," guard Dwyane Wade said before Miami hosted the New York Knicks on Saturday night. "You think Alonzo, you think of Miami. To see his jersey in the rafters will mean a lot to every player who comes through here. He's kind of what this organization stands for."
Mourning was part of Miami's NBA championship in 2006, a seven-time All-Star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year. He finished with career averages of 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots, and still has a space assigned to him in the Heat locker room -- although now it's primarily used by his son Trey, a Miami ballboy.
"It's a great privilege and it will be an incredible honor for the Miami Heat on the night of March 30," said Heat president Pat Riley, who coached Mourning in Miami and developed a special bond with the center. "That's the night the number 33 will become truly significant with this franchise and the name that goes with it, Alonzo Mourning, will be hung from the rafters forever."
Mourning suffered what essentially amounted to a career-ending injury on Dec. 19, 2007 -- the fourth anniversary of his lifesaving kidney transplant.
He tried to return this season for one final campaign, but retired for good on Jan. 22.
South Florida will remain Mourning's home base, and his passion -- Alonzo Mourning Charities -- will continue raising money for disadvantaged children in the area. So far, his annual Zo's Summer Groove series of fundraisers -- which he now co-headlines alongside Wade -- have alone raised more than $7 million.
"When you think of the Miami Heat ... I would say the majority of the people think of Alonzo Mourning, first and foremost," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "What he's been able to accomplish outside the court and what he's been able to give to people of need as inspiration, I think it's even a bigger story than what he's done on the court."
Riley said more jerseys will be added to the rafters in the future, to hang alongside Mourning.
"His will be the first," Riley said. "It won't be the last."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
MORE NBA HEADLINES
- Wade outshines LeBron as Heat handle Cavs
- Kobe misses 2nd game in row, cites 'old age'
- Westbrook lifts Durant-less OKC past Spurs
- LeBron gets standing ovation in Miami return