No tears for Alonzo

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The NBA has said 'Zo long to one of the game's most dominant defensive presences.

In some parts, some are privately saying good riddance. And justifiably so.

Alonzo Mourning, whose perpetual scowl was matched only by his ego, called it a career yesterday in Miami, where he achieved the ultimate prize in helping the Heat win the NBA championship in 2006.

He is revered in South Beach because he has given so much of his time and so much of his money to local charities.

For that, he should be applauded.

He's an icon in Miami, but ask people in Charlotte and in Toronto and to some degree in New Jersey and the perception is a lot different.

Greed and envy led to Mourning's exit in Charlotte, where the one-time expansion team had the building blocks to contend for a title.

NEVER RECOVERED

When Mourning was traded to the Heat, in part because he feuded with Larry Johnson and with team management over money, fans of the Hornets were left in Mourning, metaphorically speaking of course.

The team never recovered, triggering a series of setbacks that ultimately led to the franchise relocating to New Orleans.

As soon as he arrived in Miami for the first time, management gave Mourning a deal worth in excess of $100 million, making him one of the first NBA players to hit that salary plateau.

In Toronto, how can fans ever forget the contempt and utter arrogance he showed when Mourning refused to report after the Raptors traded Vince Carter to New Jersey.

The ultimate slap in the face came when then-Raptors GM Rob Babcock bought out the remaining years of Mourning's contract.

The Nets had acquired Mourning in free agency and then he wanted out of the Jersey swamps when Kenyon Martin bolted for Denver.

Image is everything in the NBA and today the league and the Heat will be basking in the legacy Mourning left, the lives he touched and the personal achievements he attained that could be viewed as Hall of Fame worthy.

But make no mistake, Mourning was as much a bully as he was a shot blocker, a petulant player who, along with his uber agent David Faulk, got what he wanted when he pouted.

Intimidation was Mourning's calling card in more ways than one.

His story of recovering from a kidney transplant is inspirational, but Mourning's basketball story is far from a feel-good tale.

When the media gathered yesterday at American Airlines Arena and when Mourning gathered his thoughts, none of the baggage he left behind was discussed.

Perhaps they shouldn't be discussed, but they cannot be overlooked.

As he announced his retirement, Mourning stood in front of a sign that read: Warriors Do Not Live in the Past, the Past is Dead, Life is Now, and the Future is Waiting.

"It's not a sad day,'' Mourning, who soon will turn 39, said. "But it's a day to celebrate. I could think of a million people right now that would love to walk the path that I walked."

Mourning's trail would be a lot more uplifting had he not turned his back on the Hornets, Nets and Raptors.

Mourning burst on to the scene in 1992 when the Hornets used the second overall pick to take the 6-foot-9 centre from Georgetown.

FEUDED WITH SHAQ

Shaquille O'Neal went first overall, beginning a feud that would last until the two were united in Miami with Dwyane Wade as the leading man.

Twice Mourning was voted as the NBA's defensive player of the year and on seven occasions earned all-star status.

Mourning won Olympic gold and will be remembered among the game's premier shot blockers.

When healthy, Mourning was both physically and mentally tough.

The Heat will retire Mourning's No. 33 jersey, as they should.

"My health is more important than anything," said Mourning, who, until yesterday, was trying to come back from a horrendous leg injury he sustained two years ago.

"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."


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