By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Sure Gary Payton counts. But he played just two of 17 seasons in Miami, with a ring from the 2006 championship but also with his mortality showing as the last two of the 17 and The Glove more nickname than accurate description.
Alonzo Mourning, though, is pure Heat.
That’s what made Monday so meaningful, beyond the obvious individual salute with the official announcement that Mourning had been elected to the Hall of Fame. It was a moment for the entire franchise. It was a moment for all South Florida.
In joining 2013 inductee Payton as the second former Miami player to be enshrined, “Zo” became the first Miami player, and that’s more than semantics. Mourning came to a team in 1995-96 that had never finished better than fourth in the Atlantic Division and had a winning record once in seven years of existence. Titles, and not of the division variety, followed. Unlike anyone in uniform, and second only to Pat Riley in any job, he made them.
The election of Mitch Richmond was also made official Monday in Dallas in conjunction with the Final Four, along with induction for college coaches Gary Williams and Nolan Richardson as part of the Class of 2014 that already included David Stern, Sarunas Marciulionis and Bob (Slick) Leonard among others. Mitch Richmond is a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native.
Enshrinement festivities are Aug. 7-9 in Springfield, Mass., but just try avoiding the South Florida feel. It won’t happen. One of the best players the region ever produced and the physical presence of a center who helped forge the identity of future champions will walk the red carpet at Symphony Hall, and it will be an event at the far tip of the Eastern seaboard.
“I’m humbled and I’m truly honored to be able to stand here before you today and to know I’m going to be a part of such a prestigious group of individuals that helped pave the way for a lot of individuals to experience this,” Mourning said on the television broadcast of the announcement. “Again, I’m very, very grateful. I stand here on the shoulders of so many other people.”
The significance impossible to miss that so many other people from the Heat have stood on his shoulders while playing 10 and 1/2 of his 15 seasons in two stints with the Heat. The second Miami run was as part of the 2006 title team, which will become the starting place for this latest moment of Mourning helping to take the franchise to the future.
Dwyane Wade won that championship too, and he will be in the Hall. Same with Shaquille O’Neal, headed for 2017 induction after spending only 3 and 1/2 seasons along Biscayne Bay but as first-team All-NBA in two of them. Tim Hardaway, gone from Miami by then but forever linked to the Heat, was a finalist this year and could make Springfield one day.
And then there’s the current group, of course. LeBron James. Wade, from both generations of Heat. Ray Allen. Chris Bosh. It is possible to imagine going from zero players to seven with deep Miami ties being enshrined in a relatively short span of history, depending how long James plays, and eight counting Payton. Nine counting Riley, a 2008 inductee as coach.
Mourning will have been the guy who — typically — showed all the other players the way.