Alonzo Mourning's best season came in 1999, he should have won the MVP (Malone earned his second trophy that year), but his top-seeded Heat lost to the Knicks in the first round yet again – the first top overall playoff seed to lose in the first round in Eastern Conference postseason history. New York also toppled the Heat in 2000. Six consecutive playoff ousters at the hands of just two teams.
From there came the illness, and the decline. From there also came the gold medal, that eventual championship ring (after a Finals series that saw Mourning outplay a weary and overweight Shaquille O’Neal off the Heat bench), his rightful lionization, and deserved Hall of Fame induction. As unfortunate as it may have been to see Mourning cut down in his prime, and as frightening as the diagnosis and eventual transplant may have been, you get the feeling that an unbowed Alonzo Mourning will take all of it.
— Kelly Dwyer Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Miami Heat stands on the court during the NBA game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at American Airlines Arena on March 9, 2007 in Miami, Florida. The Heat won 105-91. Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Miami Heat poses for their pregame video on October 20, 2005 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. U.S. President Barack Obama stands near former National Basketball Association player Alonzo Mourning after arriving at the Grande Oaks Golf Club in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SPORT GOLF BASKETBALL) Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket for a dunk during the 2002 NBA All Star Game at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CHARLOTTE, NC - 1993: (L-R) Larry Johnson #2, 'Mugsy' Bogues #1 and Alonzo Mourning #33 of the Charlotte Hornets take a break during an NBA game circa 1993 at The Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/ NBAE via Getty Images) OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 12: Miami Heat Executive Alonzo Mourning, Heat President Pat Riley and wife Chris Riley watch Game One of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 12, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning shows emotion vs UConn. Hartford CT 1990. (Photo by Bob Stowell/Getty Images) Alonzo Mourning shakes hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected number two overall by the Charlotte Hornets during the 1992 NBA Draft on June 24, 1992 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning teas down a rebound vs UConn. Hartford CT 1990. (Photo by Bob Stowell/Getty Images) Center Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat looks on during an NBA playoff game against the New York Knicks. The Knicks defeated the Heat 96-86. Mandatory Credit: Eliot J. Schechter /Allsport Alonzo Mourning #45 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars looks to make a pass against Dikembe Mutombo #55 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the 1996 NBA All-Star Game played on February 11, 1996 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Alonzo Mourning #7 of Team USA is looking on during a USA Team Olympic Training Game against Team USA College Select at the Stan Sherif Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Team USA defeated Team USA Select 111-74.Mandatory Credit: Harry How /Allsport Patrick Ewing #33, Dikembe Mutombo #55 and Alonzo Mourning #33 pose for a portrait during the 1995 NBA All-Star Weekend on February 10, 1995 in Phoenix, Arizona. Alonzo Mourning #33 sits in the locker room with teammates during the 1988 McDonald's All-American Game in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)