EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Playing in an NBA game for the first time since a kidney transplant was like riding a bike for Alonzo Mourning.
Once he was on the court, the veteran center looked like he had never left.
In a remarkable 19-minute performance, Mourning had 12 points and five rebounds in leading the New Jersey Nets in a 96-94 preseason victory over the
Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.
"I have been playing this game for over 20 years," a matter-of-fact Mourning said at his locker after the game. "It's just like riding a bike, you
never forget. You never forget how to ride a bike. If you haven't ridden one in three years, they throw one in front of you, you know what to do with
The 34-year-old Mourning showed that just seconds after peeling off his sweat pants and reporting into the game with 6:15 left in the first
Mourning ran a pick and roll with Richard Jefferson, and it left him wide open near the foul line. Jefferson gave him the ball and Mourning swished a
foul line jumper.
The fans in sparsely filled Continental Airlines Arena who had given him a standing ovation when he entered the game, cheered even more.
Mourning was supposed to play 8-to-10 minutes, but he remarkably almost doubled that. Coach Lawrence Frank even asked him at one point in the second
quarter if he was OK. Mourning smiled and said "Yes."
Mourning, who played in each quarter, fouled out on a charging call with 7:50 left in the game. The 12-year-veteran was 3-of-5 from the field and
6-of-10 from the free throw line.
"I wasn't thinking of an individual type of satisfaction," Mourning said. "I do know a year ago playing preseason games was physically more of a
struggle, and you don't realize that until now. Back then, I had learned to deal with fatigue."
Since getting a new kidney from a cousin on Dec. 19, Mourning said his new organ is working perfectly and he is feeling much better.
"As far as my overall conditioning, it does need to be a little better," Mourning said. "At the same time, I think my recovery is doing a lot better
because I have a new organ that is doing its job. That makes a world of difference."
Mourning said the only thing that will prevent him from playing is if his doctors tell him to stop or his body rejects his new kidney.
"All I can do is take this one day at a time," Mourning said. "I can't predict what's going to happen."
Mourning is attempting to be the second pro athlete to return from a kidney transplant. The first was former San Antonio Spurs swingman Sean Elliott,
who played 71 games over two seasons after undergoing a transplant in 1999.
Mourning did not engage in contact practices until last week.
Frank was awed by Mourning's effort.
"For the first game after not having played, after coming off a kidney transplant, phenomenal!" Frank said. "I got a cold and I don't think I could
come back the next day. This guy had a kidney transplant and you could see him busting his butt, and the energy he gave."
He even had time to joke with Sixers guard Allen Iverson, another former Georgetown player, after Mourning was called for an offensive foul.
"He said I was acting," Iverson said, "and I was."
The still muscular Mourning is wearing a fiberglass pad to protect his kidney area, a necessity since he plays on the inside against some of the
biggest athletes in sports.
Mourning was diagnosed in 2000 with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He only played in 13 games that season and he missed the entire 2002-03
The Nets signed him last year, but his illness forced him to end his season after 12 games.
The Nets open the season against Miami on Nov. 3.
[Edited on 10/29/2004 by Gibbs Baby!!!]