Former Charlotte Hornet Alonzo Mourning, who perhaps hit the biggest shot in Hornets history with his buzzer-beater Game 4 of the team's first playoff series, was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night.
Though his brief three-season stint with Charlotte cannot be claimed as the bulk of what earned him this immense honor, it was the launching point to a great career on the court as a player and off it as an ambassador of the game and a friend to local communities.
After an outstanding collegiate career with Georgetown finishing his senior season with an outstanding 21 points / 10.7 rebounds / 5 blocks per game statline average, the Hornets picked him No. 2 overall to form an extremely daunting and talented frontcourt alongside Larry Johnson.
The two, with other Hornets favorites Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry and Kendall Gill, would lead the team to their first playoff appearance, a 3-1 series victory over the Boston Celtics. Mourning's 24 points per game, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks per game in the series were huge for Charlotte, and it all culminated in the last game of the series on their last shot before the buzzer sounded with Mourning hitting the long stepback jump shot over Xavier McDaniel. The Celtics couldn't complete the ensuing inbounds alley-oop layup with mere tenths of a second remaining, and the Charlotte Hornets became the first expansion team to ever win a playoff series in their first playoff appearance.
Charlotte was rabid for their Hornets long before Mourning, but this was their first taste of a good team and fans were finally not only excited for the chance of future success but a realistic chance of present success.
Unfortunately, the Hornets would part ways with their talented duo, sending Mourning to Miami for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves and a first round pick as part of a six-player deal. Mourning and George Shinn couldn't come to a financial agreement and so Mourning left after three seasons in Charlotte.
After that time, Mourning spent much of the rest of his career with the Miami Heat finding a good deal of success before having to miss time with kidney problems. Thankfully he would got a transplant and recovered from his life-threatening illness.
Mourning's career was a bright one and absolutely littered with accolades and spectacular accomplishments. He was a McDonald's All-American, a three-time All-American at Georgetown, first team NBA All-Rookie, seven-time All-Star, a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and an NBA Champion. He finished his NBA career 11th in total blocks (6th overall in blocks per game, and fourth overall in block percentage for his career), and led the league twice in total blocked shots.
And that doesn't even count his stats and accomplishments as a member of my favorite NBA Jam Tournament Edition team, which was probably something like averaging a quintuple-double.
His acceptance speech was great as he led off with "It's good to be remembered for more than just dragging Jeff Van Gundy around on my leg."