Following a three-year kidney illness, Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92) ended his professional basketball career with an abrupt retirement Monday for medical reasons. His career began at Georgetown in 1988 and led to 12 years in the NBA and an Olympic gold medal.

The New Jersey Nets center, diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis in 2000, will require a kidney transplant in the near future, according to a statement from Dr. Gerald Appel, a kidney specialist at Columbia University Medical Center and one of ourning’s physicians.

“Although he still feels well, the chemical imbalances in his blood make it dangerous for him to play,” Appel said, adding that a nationwide search is being conducted to find a prospective donor.

Mourning, 33, had just signed a four-year, $23 million contract with the Nets in July, despite having sat out all of last season and much of the previous season with the Miami Heat, as a result of his illness.

“I think everybody knew that it was a risk,” Nets President and General Manager Rod Thorn said of Mourning’s contract. “It was hard for him to maintain a very high level because of fatigue . He just got tired rather quickly.”

Mourning started at Georgetown in 1988 and won Big East Player of the Year in 1992, as well as three Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. He still holds several Hoya records, including the record for blocks in a season – he racked up 169 during his freshman year. He also ranks fourth in Georgetown history for scoring and third in rebounding.

He was the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft in 1992, when he was selected to play for the Charlotte Hornets. He was traded to the iami Heat in 1995, playing center for the team for eight years before leaving as a free agent after last season. He was attempting to stage a comeback and went to the Nets seeking a championship.

“Alonzo is a true champion and a very courageous athlete who attempted to defy the odds with his comeback to the NBA,” Thorn said. “Unfortunately, his medical condition will not allow him to continue his basketball career.”

Mourning entered the season with a career average of 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He put up a season-high 15 points against the Raptors on Saturday.

The NBA star was diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis, and prevents the kidneys from properly filtering waste from the blood. It can cause scarring and eventually cause the kidney to cease functioning, requiring a transplant. The disease was once the fourth greatest cause of death in the United States.

“I can’t put a Band-Aid on [this illness,]” ourning said during a panel discussion at Georgetown in 2001. “I’m in a position to fight and win [against] this disease. I talk to it every day. I hope the intimidation factor has set in by now.”

Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs suffered from the same disease and had a kidney transplant the year before Mourning was diagnosed. Elliot returned to play for the Spurs the next season, the first professional athlete in a major sport to return to play after an organ transplant.

Mourning’s other accolades include an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. team at the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney. He has been named an NBA All-Star seven times and has won NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice.

“That Alonzo resumed his career in the NBA despite his ailment speaks volumes about his character,” current men’s basketball Head Coach Craig Esherick said in a statement yesterday. “He’s a tremendous example for young people and we are all hoping and praying that his course of treatment is a complete success.”

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