Basketball / Sports

Mitch Richmond, Alonzo Mourning officially join Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning knew there was absolutely no chance of accomplishing the task.

When it was first announced he would join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the organizers told him only five minutes were allowed per acceptance speech.

Mourning laughed.

"Once they told me five minutes, I shook my head at that at first and foremost," Mourning said recently. "Five minutes, are you kidding me? After this career that I've had? In five minutes? Yea, OK. Good luck with that one."

Mourning was among those enshrined in the Class of 2014 Friday at Symphony Hall. Former Boyd Anderson standout Mitch Richmond became the first player from Broward County to receive the honor, joining players Artis Gilmore (Chipley) and David Robinson (Key West) and coach John Chaney (Jacksonville) as the only Florida natives in the Hall.

For Mourning, a seven-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, this was opportunity to thank everyone who influenced his career. After a brief joke about then New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy holding onto to his leg during a fight between the teams in the 1998 playoffs, it was serious Mourning.

His thanks ranged from former coaches and presenters Pat Riley and John Thompson to Heat owner Micky Arison to second cousin Jason Cooper, who donated a kidney that allowed Mourning to continue his playing career.

It was no surprise Mourning's speech was among the longest, lasting nearly 25 minutes.

This is the same Mourning who routinely answered the simplest of questions from the media with five-minute responses. His opening statement after winning an NBA title in 2006 alone was 10 minutes.

"This honor is not about me," Mourning said. "It's not. No one wins basketball games by themselves just as no one goes through life alone. We are all products of how other people have touched us, taught us, loved us, pushed us in ways great and small. We are what other people give us."

What made the experience most special was being on the same stage with recently-retired NBA commissioner David Stern, who was one of the inductees. The list included players Nat Clifton, Guy Rodgers and Sarunas Marciulionis and coaches Nolan Richardson, Bobby Leonard, and Gary Williams. The 1972-74 Immaculata College women's team was also inducted.

Mourning said he was appreciative of the honor despite the kidney disease nearly ending his career in 2002. After a year away from basketball, he returned healthy after the transplant.

"I am not supposed to be on this stage considering what life threw at me," Mourning said. "The only reason ... is because of God's grace."

Richmond used his speech as chance to recount his unlikely route from South Florida to basketball's highest honor. He wasted little time before turning the attention to where he grew up.

First, he thanked God. Then he looked over to his presenters on this occasion, former teammates Chris Mullin and Ralph Sampson, to say how appreciative he was for them over the years.

After squeezing in a bit about another teammate, Tim Hardaway, the focus then became his hometown.

"From Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Basketball Hall of Fame," Richmond said. "Wow, this is the ultimate honor. I never ever dreamed about this growing up in Florida. My first love was football. My football hero was Tony Dorsett. I didn't play organized basketball until the 10th grade, but I immediately fell in love with the game."

In 14 NBA seasons, Richmond, who played at Boyd Anderson, averaged 21 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 45 percent from the field. He was the 1989 Rookie of the Year and made six All-Star appearances.

The ultimate achievement was more than enough to offset a career of mostly being overlooked. He told a story of reading an article in high school that referred to him as Rodney Dangerfield because the lack of respect.

"When I started to have some success on the basketball court, it was great to finally get some recognition in my hometown, except the newspaper never got my name right," Richmond joked. "They would call me Mitch Richards, Rich Mitchum, all types of stuff."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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