Passion, Defense, and Life After Basketball: An Interview With Alonzo Mourning
MM: Alonzo, thanks so much for your time, I know you're busy this weekend.
Zo: No problem, man, no problem at all. Nice to talk to you.
MM: So, what are you up to down in Miami?
Zo: Well, we have our 12th annual Zo's Summer Grove, introducing DWade. This is an event that has grown tremendously. Basically, it's a weekend of events. It's a great positive weekend for people and their families. We've got youth clinics for kids. Nike has provided over 2000 pairs of shoes to give away to the kids involved in the Youth Clinic. We also have our dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel on Friday. Queen Latifah will be performing. It's also got one of the biggest silent auctions I've ever seen. I've been to a lot of silent auctions, and this is one of the largest ones, with memorabilia from all over the place.
On Saturday, we've got our comedy show, hosted by Chris Tucker. We've got a lot of different comedians, and it's kind of like a comedy bonanza, really. It's a lot of fun, it's like three hours of comedy at the Hard Rock Hotel. On Sunday, we've got our block party which is free, and open to the public. It's got free health screenings. Best Buy has a big electronics influence booth, with all sorts of electronics for people to try out. We've got bounce houses and rides and entertainment. There's food, and radio stations are on locations. It's pretty amazing.
Shortly after that, we have our All-Star basketball game. You can hear D-Wade already running his mouth in the background. The game is old school, new school kind of thing. He's part of the old school team, and obviously I'm part of the new school team. We've put together a very positive and impactful experience for everybody. LeBron James will be there, Chris Paul will be there. Joe Johnson's an old school guy. Anfernee Hardaway will be there. We've got a lot of guys there. It's a lot of fun. There's a lot of stuff going on and we just want folks to come out. You can get tickets at Ticketmaster, or at ZSG.com. All the funds go towards providing a positive educational experience for young people. Not only to get through high school, but at the same time to approach a level of higher learning and possibly college.
MM: Let's talk some basketball. How's the knee?
Zo: The knee's getting a lot better. On a percentage basis, I'd say I'm probably around 55-60%. But I'm still probably about 6 to 7 months away from where I want to be. My orthopedic doctor says I'm months ahead of schedule, considering the severity of the injury. The surgery went well, and now it's just a matter of getting the strength in my legs, particularly in my quads back up. It's going well, it's just a matter of getting stronger. I want to come back and play, but I want to come back at 100%. I have to be patient, number one. And this is just me overcoming another physical obstacle.
MM: Do you feel that with the Heat getting younger and trying to rebuild with some new pieces, that you can provide veteran leadership for a team that needs it?
Zo: Oh, yes, definitely I do. It's one of the biggest components I can bring is veteran leadership. At the same time, I still feel like I can play the game at a very high level, and I think my basketball abilities will help as well.
MM: What's the biggest thing you try and let young guys like Michael Beasley know on the court?
Zo: Professionalism and preparation. I think each and every one of us when we step on the court, if we're not prepared, we don't stand a chance. Guys can't expect to step out there and perform well just based on their overall ability. You have to be physically prepared. And you have to step into that arena with a professional mindset and realize, "Hey, these individuals are working just as hard as you are." You can't just expect to step out there and have things happen for you and you can't just be there, being in the NBA is just not enough. Hopefully I can establish some positive habits in his life and provide some veteran leadership for him.
MM: Passion is a word that's used a lot when people talk about your career. Is that something that's a current through your whole life, or is it something basketball brings out of you?
Zo: To tell you the truth, I'm passionate about life itself. I've known that I've been given a second chance to live. I've been give a very productive life. And regardless of how many material things you have, if you don't have health, you don't have anything. I know for a fact that with the overall life that I've gone through, there's been a lot of obstacles. There was foster care, and coming over a serious kidney disease. I think right now, in this particular moment, it's understanding everything I've gone through and not taking life for granted at all. Trying to live life the right way. And with my time here, I'm trying to help others with the opportunities I've been blessed with.
MM: The NBA is becoming more and more of an offensive league. Every time I talk to coaches, though, all they want to talk about is defense. As one of the best defensive players in league history, what kind of mindset do you try and bring on defense?
Zo: First off, I think defense is a component of the game that a lot of guys don't take a whole lot of pride in. Everybody just wants to put the ball in the basket. Look at what (the) Lakers didn't, I mean, they thought they were just going to outscore everybody. And their defense was atrocious in the Finals. Once you get to that level, where's the sense of urgency to stop people? If you don't want to stop people, you're not going to win at all. When you look at all of the great teams that have won championships, they were all great defensive teams. They were ranked in the top 3 teams of the league defensively. Boston pretty much signified that. And they showed that even more in the Finals.
MM: You've had a stellar career. But what kind of thoughts do you have for life after basketball?
Zo: All good things must come to an end. But when one chapter of my life comes to an end, God starts another chapter. I don't want to just be remembered as a guy that played well on the court, scored a lot of points, got some rebounds and blocked a lot of shots and won a championship. I want to be remembered as someone who used his abilities and opportunities and talents to help someone else get ahead in life. From a basketball perspective yes, I think I had a great career. And if I hadn't gotten sick, I probably would've had an even better career. I was 20 and 10 consistently for 10 years straight. And then I developed this illness. I know the sky's the limit when it comes to my work ethic, so there's probably more I could have done on the court. But I know for a fact that I wasn't just put on this Earth to be a basketball player. I was put here to help people, and be a positive influence in the lives of young people.
MM: What's the most rewarding part of all the charity work you do? What's the best thing you take home at the end of the day?
Zo: The best part is knowing that I helped someone else get ahead in life. God has given me the opportunity to live a very comfortable life and at the same time establish an opportunity for my family to be taken care of for years and years to come. Now I have the same capabilities in helping other young people. That's the most fulfilling thing when it comes to philanthropy. That's what it's all about. When the last ball bounces, when the air is out of the football, when you can't throw a baseball anymore, what are you doing to make the world a better place? I can't think of a better place to start with than our young people.
(To find out more about Zo's Summer Groove and how you can get involved, go to ZSG.com.)