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Alonzo Mourning ‘grateful’ to Charlotte for catapulting Hall of Fame career

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Alonzo Mourning will never forget May 5, 1993.

As a rookie, he helped the 1992-93 Charlotte Hornets reach the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s five-year history. Against the famed Boston Celtics, the Hornets were never supposed to have a chance. But Mourning’s game-winner from the top of the key gave the Hornets a 104-103 win in Game 4 of the series and send the Hornets onto the second round.

Alonzo Mourning with the Hornets

The play was designed for Dell Curry, now a Hornets broadcaster, and Mourning was the last resort. When the Celtics overplayed Curry, the inbounds pass came to Mourning and he knocked down the game-winner in the final second.

“With the small successes I had during that season, they say that success breeds confidence,” Mourning said. “Throughout my whole rookie season, I had these small successes and that one moment, I was like, ‘I’ve been doing this all season.’

“We had to get a shot off, so I just took a step in and let it fly.”

The play ranks second among the top moments in Mourning’s career – behind only winning an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006.

The Hornets honored the seven-time All-Star and Basketball Hall of Famer during halftime of Friday night’s 98-95 loss to the Miami Heat at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Now the vice president of player programs for the Heat, Mourning is one of several members of the 1992-92 Hornets still involved in basketball.

“I like to think that team had a really high basketball IQ,” Mourning said. “It doesn’t surprise me that we’re all still involved in some fashion with basketball.”

Mourning was only with the Hornets for three seasons before joining the Heat in 1995. But he said, being in the “basketball haven” of North Carolina helped “catapult” his young career.

“The fans just embraced you. We had a sell-out crowd every night,” Mourning said. “It all worked out in my favor as a young player coming into the league. I’m very grateful I started my career here. I owe a lot to the city of Charlotte in helping me have the career I had, just based on the support and love they gave me.”

Mourning said he doesn’t feel nostalgic whenever he returns to Charlotte, but he feels at home.

“When I come back to Charlotte, I thank the fans. I really do,” Mourning said. “Just in the three years I played here, anytime I come back, they make me feel at home. In the airport, when I go to restaurants, they make me feel at home. It’s a special feeling when I come back and I’m very thankful and grateful for all the memories.”