Mourning Glory: Alonzo Heading to the FIBA Hall of Fame

first_imgIf you ask people who the All-time leading scorer is for USA Basketball in the FIBA Basketball World Cup (believe me, I’ve tested this), people never seem to guess the correct answer. Ahead of him being ushered into the FIBA Hall of Fame before this year’s tournament in China, it feels like an opportune time to look back at the legacy of Alonzo Mourning for his country. He’s known as the scowling, high-fade-rocking, Jeff-Van-Gundy-nemesis, bulging-bicep-flexing, interior-enforcer of the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat of the 90s, but what about international play? But it wasn’t only the stature and physicality of this roster that stood out from their competition. While the original Dream Team had (with the notable exception of Charles Barkley), felt like experienced foreign ambassadors, Dream Team 2, quite simply, did not. This was a team that was going to openly talk trash but also back it up. The emphatic dunks during blowout wins, the snarling rebounds and the chest-bumping celebrations had become commonplace in the NBA, yet to some looking on felt out of place in an international context. Still displaying the confidence and swagger that oozed from this team, when speaking to FIBA Media for an upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup documentary, Mourning said “We knew we were going to win gold. Something catastrophic would have had to have happened for us to not win… We came out and we just blew everybody out by 30…. We had to show the world who was the best. And we made a statement.” But Mourning also discussed how valuable the experience was competing in practice and experiencing the comradery that came with being teammates with such elite players. He said “During the season we were adversaries. To have them as teammates? Those were moments that I treasured. I think that’s what helped evolve my game even more. It gave me the confidence I needed. I was very thankful to be a part of that.” Having played in both the 1990 and 1994 tournaments, Alonzo Mourning not only holds the all time  (USA) scoring record (215 points), but he’s also the (USA) all-time leading rebounder (102) and shot blocker (46) too.1990Mourning’s first World Cup experience was as part of the roster assembled in 1990 from outstanding college players. Along with Kenny Anderson and Billy Owens, Mourning was one of the outstanding players in the team. The team went 3-0 in the group stage, defeating Greece (in OT), South Korea and Spain. In the knockout stages however, the USA came up against the eventual winner, Yugoslavia. This was no ordinary team either. This was a generation of Yugoslav players that included Drazen Petrovic, (tournament MVP) Toni Kukoc and Vlade Divac among an incredibly talented roster. The experience, talent and chemistry of this team that had played together for years was too much for the young USA team. The USA went on to defeat Puerto Rico to secure third place in the tournament. Notably, despite Mourning being the outstanding frontcourt player on this team both offensively and defensively, it was actually his teammate from 1990, Christian Laettner, who would receive the call to play in 1992. 1994: Dream Team 2After Mourning continued to excel in both the college and professional ranks, it was no surprise that he was called up again to the USA team in 1994. However, considering Mourning’s all-time achievements that I listed in my intro are cumulative numbers, it may be surprising that in the 1994 tournament Mourning averaged less than 15 minutes per game. To somewhat explain his playing time however, this was no ordinary team. This was Dream Team 2. This was the first time the FIBA Basketball World Cup was open to US NBA players and as a quirk of the timing of his coming of age as a player and the rule changes, Mourning is the only US player to have competed in a FIBA Basketball World Cup both as a college player and after the rules changed to allow NBA participation. This 1994 team followed closely in the footsteps of Magic, Bird and MJ from the 1992 Olympics, and looked to replicate their dominance. In truth, in Barcelona the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had been at or close to the end of their careers (Bird didn’t play again, while Magic didn’t play again until he suited up for 32 games of the 95-96 season after he’d stepped away following his HIV diagnosis). In 1994 Michael Jordan was also absent, occupying the baseball diamond instead of the hardwood. The path was left open for a new generation of players to showcase themselves on the world stage and to leave their own impression on international fans. Mourning shared the frontcourt minutes with Shaquille O’Neal, Shawn Kemp, Derrick Coleman and (Mourning’s then NBA teammate) Larry Johnson. This is (I would argue) the most physically imposing frontcourt ever to have played in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. The likes of Mark Price, Dominique Wilkins and Joe Dumars provided veteran leadership, while Steve Smith, Reggie Miller, Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson made up the backcourt.  This was reflected perfectly when Mourning participated in the 2000 Olympics. En route to the gold medal, he blocked 6 shots against Italy, leading the tournament in terms of single game blocks. Only China’s (seven feet, six inch) Yao Ming blocked more shots than Mourning in that tournament, and (again) this was with Mourning averaging less than 23 minutes per game. As Mourning enters the FIBA Hall of Fame on August 30, many will remember the dunks, the blocks and the bravado. But you should also remember the winning, the patriotism and the cultural significance of Mourning and his peers. Between the NBA Jam-worthy highlights, the unapologetic swagger and the soundtrack that followed the team, this was not only a display of basketball dominance. It was a global showcase of a hip-hop cultural movement and aesthetic that by the mid 90s was gathering steam and shifting from sub-cultural trend to mainstream pop culture. To many fans of the game, this hip hop cultural zeitgeist would become (and in many ways had already become) inextricably entwined within the very fabric of the sport for probably the next decade and onwards. And there’s no doubt that Alonzo Mourning and his teammates played a huge role in exporting this phenomenon. Indeed, with players mirroring the fashions, styles and demeanour of hip hop culture, basketball players became increasingly name dropped in the music. This was (and still is) a self-fueling and self-referential cultural loop. Discussing how influential this team was on the sport, Mourning said “We were global icons. That immediately planted seeds in these young players. And they say ‘You know what? I’m going to represent my country and we’re going to beat the US.’… We sparked something globally, which is why now basketball has grown tremendously internationally.” Mourning’s GameDespite his polished offensive game from the low post and his ability to just physically overpower opponents on the boards, for me, the most elite skill in Alonzo Mourning’s game was his shot blocking. The combination of his size and length was obviously a big factor. While he stood a reasonably average (by positional standards at the time) 6ft 9.5inches tall, he had an incredible 7 feet, 6.5 inch wingspan. The physical gifts he possessed in terms of leaping ability and strength, an uncanny timing and a seemingly-endless determination to throw himself in front of any player driving to the hoop resulted in one of the all-time greatest shot blockers. last_img read more

Sofapaka dedicate Shield victory to Bagoole

first_imgThe players wore black armbands and observed a minute of silence before the tie.Stephen Waruru, Umaru Kasumba and Piston Mutamba scored the goals as John Baraza’s men sailed to the next round.Sofapaka FC players gather for a minute of silence in honor of departed former captain Johnson Bagoole who died in Kampala, Uganda on June 21. PHOTO/Timothy OlobuluBaraza sent all signals that he was taking the tournament seriously fielding a full strength squad against the lower league side. The only change was in goalkeeping where new signing Wycliffe Kasaya was drafted in for his debut with Mathias Kigonya rested.Sofapaka controlled the game, playing with ease and not pushing themselves too much. Their first chance came in the 11th minute when Bernard Mang’oli was picked out by a pass from Kassumba, but his shot from the right was deflected for a corner.From the resultant set piece, Mang’oli floated in the ball to Kassumba at the edge of the six yard box but the striker’s dinking header destined for the far post went just wide.Sofapaka’s early control bore fruit in the 18th minute when Waruru broke the deadlock with a simple tap in from a yard out after Kassumba had broken off on the right to float in a cross that beat the keeper.Sofapaka striker Umaru Kassumba controls the ball under pressure from a Baba Dogo United player in the FKF Shield Round of 32 match at the Camp Toyoyo Ground on June 24, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy OlobuluSeven minutes later, they doubled their advantage this time Kassumba turning from provider to scorer, shooting low into the box after escaping his marker at the edge of the box with a little nut meg off a Piston Mutamba pass.Baba Dogo were punished for sitting back too much but as soon as they conceded the second, they started opening up and pushing to the attacking half in search of a goal.On the half hour mark they came close when John Mark Ochieng found shooting space on the right after some promising build up by Baba Dogo, but his eventual effort went wide.Five minutes later, they had another chance from a freekick off good scoring range, but Austin Odhiambo curled the effort wide.Sofapaka midfielder Teddy Osok races away from a Baba Dogo United player in the FKF Shield Round of 32 match at the Camp Toyoyo Ground on June 24, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy OlobuluTheir closest opportunity came a minute to half time, Ochieng again posing the danger with his shot from a tight angle turned behind for a corner by Kasaya.In the second half, Sofapaka needed only six minutes to seal the win. Mutamba, just recently signed from Wazito curled in a beauty of a freekick beyond the wall after Elli Asieche was axed at the edge of the area.The side should have gotten their fourth five minutes later off a counter attack after Waruru sent Mutamba through, but the latter’s shot was disappointing. Baba Dogo made changes including bringing former Ulinzi striker Enock Momanyi, but they couldn’t get a way back.They had a golden chance in the 72nd minute when Fredrick Okoth sent a decent cross from the right but substitute Reagan Karuri could not do the easy task of dinking the ball past Kasaya, instead tapping wide.0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Sofapaka strikers Umaru Kassumba, Piston Mutamba and Stephen Waruru celebrate one of the goals in their 3-0 win over Baba Dogo United in the FKF Shield Round of 32 match at the Camp Toyoyo Ground on June 24, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy OlobuluNAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24- Three-time Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Shield Champions Sofapaka dedicated their 3-0 round of 32 victory over Baba Dogo United on Sunday afternoon at Camp Toyoyo to their departed defender Johnson Bagoole who passed on last Thursday in Kampala.Batoto ba Mungu progressed to the round of 16 as they upped their ambition to get a fourth crown and dedicated all the sweat and toil to their former captain and defender who succumbed to Menengitis.last_img read more