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Old 01-21-2008, 11:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
Dr. J. Naismith
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Default SI's Thomsen defending his comments that Zo should be a HOF'er

I put this in the Raptors forum because it seems like a couple bitter Raptors fans are challenging Ian Thomsen from Sports Illustrated on his comments last week that Ass-lonzo should be a fixture for the basketball Hall of Fame.

Most of your pro-Alonzo Mourning arguments for the Hall of Fame aren't that strong. He played long enough? So has Calbert Cheaney. Humanitarian work? Where was his concern over kidney research before he got sick? As for before the illness, you can't award a guy based on potential -- too speculative. You also offer a very limp defense for Zo sulking his way out of New jersey and Toronto. Other players have made their way to championship contenders with, you know, CLASS.
-- Steve, Seoul
BTW HoopsNation, is Warren a relative of yours?

There's no way Zo is a Hall of Famer. What he did to the Raptors was disgusting. Raps fans (myself included) have a lot of hate for Vince Carter and how he dogged it when he was here, but in my opinion what Zo did was a lot worse. Play out your contract. Don't threaten to retire knowing full well you are healthy enough to keep playing for another few years. Charitable work is all well and good, but this shows what kind of a person he really is.
-- Warren Gonsalves, Toronto
Ian's response:

Originally Posted by Ian Thomsen
First of all, I would encourage anyone to find how many Hall of Famers didn't have one or more incidents in which they either used contractual leverage against their team, or were otherwise involved in some kind of unseemly behavior. Charles Barkley had all sorts of incidents. Magic Johnson was accused of getting his coach fired. Scottie Pippen (who will certainly be elected to the Hall of Fame) benched himself in the playoffs because he wasn't awarded a buzzer-beating shot. Michael Jordan had issues with gambling. In each case, these and other concerns were put in perspective against the greater accomplishments of the player's career.

I imagine that my fellow Canadians will maintain that Mourning's refusal to play for them crossed an unforgivable line. There's nothing wrong with seeing it that way. I see it differently. Mourning had already spent years trying to play despite his kidney disease. After he was forced to undergo a life-saving transplant, Mourning could have simply cashed his guaranteed paychecks and made no attempt to earn the money by playing again; indeed, no one expected him to return to the NBA, and more than a few people worried that he was being reckless with his health in doing so.

That he did return in a substantial way proved to be a tremendous feat of will; no one should contest that much. And he didn't do it for the money, because he already had that whether or not he played.

But if he was going to come back, he wasn't going to play for the moribund Raptors. Why would he absorb so much risk on behalf of a franchise that was going nowhere? He wasn't going to risk his life -- as many believed he was doing -- in order to play .400 ball. He wanted his comeback to contribute to a larger cause, and that was to win a championship. And for him to win that championship in Miami gave more strength to his charitable efforts in that community.

The comment from Steve of Seoul is ridiculously mean-spirited. Of course Mourning didn't do charity work on behalf of kidney research and transplants before he was sick; he, like most of us, wasn't aware of the issues before he was sick. When he became aware of them, he did something about it. He devoted a lot of energy at a time when he had little to go around.

To those who insist that his choices or achievements fall short of the standard, I would ask: Have you taken a look at the players in the Hall of Fame? Those players were inducted according to a variety of reasons. Dominique Wilkins, who was accused throughout his career of being a selfish player, is a Hall of Famer. Maurice Stokes, a Rookie of the Year who played three seasons before suffering paralysis from a tragic fall to the court, is a Hall of Famer.

I contend that the story of Mourning's career, taking into account who he was before his illness and the achievements for which he worked so hard afterward, is altogether worthy of the Hall of Fame. And I believe in a few years that the Hall's voters will agree with me.
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