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2017 Silver Anniversary Award: Alonzo Mourning

Former Georgetown University standout places education before basketball

After 15 seasons in the NBA and a decorated career at Georgetown University, Alonzo Mourning’s advice to his son, a junior on the Hoyas basketball team, has remained consistent: “I stress education.”

As the current vice president of player programs and development for the Miami Heat, where his retired jersey hangs in the rafters at the AmericanAirlines Arena, Mourning built his life around basketball. But, to him, the sport has always come second.

Mourning will receive an NCAA Silver Anniversary Award at the NCAA Honors Celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 18, in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual award recognizes six distinguished former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of the end of their intercollegiate athletics eligibility.

“Going to Georgetown, staying in school and getting a quality education is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.

Basketball always seemed like the natural fit for the Chesapeake, Virginia, native. In high school, Mourning was taller than seemingly everyone he encountered – classmates, teachers, coaches – and he stood out. Accordingly, he was thrust into the spotlight and was often burdened by high expectations he wasn’t sure he could meet.

But Mourning used his height to become a defensive standout, making him an ideal fit for John Thompson’s system at Georgetown that was built around strong interior defenders. So, in 1988, Mourning became a Hoya. After leading the country in blocked shots as a freshman, the NBA beckoned.

“Thankfully, I had a lot of influences telling me to stay in school,” Mourning said. “The game is temporary, but education is something you can lean on forever.”

Mourning went on to become an All-American and the Big East Player of the Year. He believes his decision to stay at Georgetown changed his life, and he remembers his time on campus as “the best four years of my life, by far.” He graduated in 1992.

Mourning, drafted second overall that year by the Charlotte Hornets, retired from the NBA in 2009 and in 2014 was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was a seven-time All-Star and two-time defensive player of the year.  

Mourning has found even more success away from basketball. He has founded and contributed to many charities – both in the Miami community and nationally. The Mourning Family Foundation has raised more than $25 million to support an array of youth development programs. Additionally, in the Heat front office, he is committed to molding current players into professionals and ensuring they will go on to be productive citizens away from the court.

“My job is to prepare players for life after the game,” he said. “For me, that starts with education.”