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Special Event

Alonzo Mourning to Return to Miami Heat

Aired March 27, 2001 - 3:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bobbie, we want to take our viewers to Miami, now. We're standing by. You see Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning there. A word about whether Miami will be getting a little more heat back from Alonzo Mourning.

Let's listen.

PAT RILEY, MIAMI HEAT HEAD COACH: Somewhat of a change, and so what I want to do is I simply want to turn it over to David Falk and in consultation with Dr. Appel, who is not here today, and we'll turn it over to Alonzo to make the announcement.

DAVID FALK, MOURNING'S AGENT: Thank you, Pat. Good afternoon. On October 15th of last year, Alonzo stood before you and announced that he had -- was suffering from a kidney disease called focal glomerulosclerosis. At that time, he introduced his doctor, Dr. Jerry Appel of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, who is one of the leading if is not the leading experts in the world in diagnosing and treating this type of disease.

And as Pat indicated, unfortunately, Dr. Appel could not be with us today, and if are there questions, specific medical questions that obviously are way beyond my competence to answer, we will provide a number for Dr. Appel to respond to your questions in a technical sense. At the meeting, Dr. Appel explained the disease and its effects, particularly on a world-class athlete like Alonzo Mourning.

After five months of treatment and rehabilitation, Dr. Appel has indicated to us that at the current time, Alonzo's condition is in remission. It has not been cured, and I emphasize it has not been cured. As part of his treatment program, Alonzo has began practicing basketball in order to prevent his muscle tissue from atrophy, and he asked Dr. Appel, based upon his practice sessions, if the improvement in his condition will now allow him to resume playing NBA basketball.

This is an extremely difficult question for Dr. Appel or for any other doctor to answer because Alonzo did not have a broken bone. He did not suffer torn cartilage, conditions that hundreds of professional athletes have had before, conditions that medical specialists have successfully treated and, therefore, conditions that have provided these specialists with experience and precedence in treating other similar types of cases.

Alonzo's is literally a case of first impression, and as a result, Dr. Appel can only provide a best guess, a very well educated best guess, but a best guess none the less. And Dr. Appel believes at this time that based upon Alonzo's current test results and based upon his levels, that playing regular season NBA basketball does not pose a significantly greater risk to Alonzo's health than practicing basketball.

I emphasize at this time for several reasons. First, Alonzo's condition is subject to change. Whether or not he resumes playing, his condition is subject to change. It is possible that if Alonzo elects not to return to play now and continues to have his levels closely monitored, that his playing condition could become aggravated at a later date in which case he would not be able to play at all.

Secondly, Alonzo's condition is subject to change if he plays professional basketball as a result of him coming back to play. Accordingly, Dr. Appel has cautioned Alonzo that if he decides to resume playing, it must be done on a game-by-game basis, and Dr. Appel will continue to closely monitor Alonzo's levels ensure that they're at satisfactory level.

And so, as a result of the uniqueness of Alonzo's case and the consequent uncertainty that it creates, and as a result of the risks involved, Dr. Appel has informed Alonzo that this is a decision that only he can make, taking into account all of the factors that we have discussed and all of the risks.

And so I'd like to turn over to Alonzo to explain what he has decided.

ALONZO MOURNING, MIAMI HEAT CENTER: Thanks, David.

This whole ordeal was a very difficult one for me. Fortunately enough, you know, I have been blessed to have the right people around me, to help me make the proper decisions throughout the whole situation. Again, I say, it was a very tough decision to make because when you have the best -- well, considered best -- nephrologist in the country advising you, and telling you the things you need to know, at the same time he can't really give you any solid answers on your future, it just make -- made it even more difficult.

I know that the future is definitely not promised to me, but at the same time, I know that, from day one, that I was going to prepare myself physically to try to beat this and to fight this -- fight this disease. And fortunately enough I have kind of put my position -- put myself in a position to do that. So I have come to the conclusion that I'm going to try to come back and play this season.

The one thing, again, I say, that made it so difficult was the fact that I don't know how this disease is going to turn out in the future. And by me not knowing, I knew this: That there is short window of time, I felt, due to the fact that initially they told me throughout this whole process, was going to take about 12 months of treatment. We have gone through a good six months already.

So when Dr. Appel tells me that in six months the situation could be worse off, or then again, it could be better, then I know that I'm confronted with a tremendous opportunity to possibly play again because I have prepared myself to do so. At the same time, and knowing that if I do wait, I might lose that opportunity, you know.

From day one, I kind of channeled my mind, channeled my mind and tried to develop it from a positive perspective, and knowing that hey, I'm going to do everything possible to try to beat this, you know. And I have worked diligently, with the help of others, to try to get myself back right.

It's been a step-by-step process, you know, and I have been, throughout this whole process the biggest -- my biggest challenge, to tell you the truth, was having to develop a certain level of patience, and I think I've have told all of you that, you know, having to develop a certain level of patience was the most challenging thing. I think that's one biggest things I will get out of all of this, is to establish that level of patience.

So I'm pleased to have come -- finally come to this day. I thought it was going to be later than what it is today, but God has a -- God works in mysterious ways, and I continue to keep my faith in him, and I knew that he, all along, that he would definitely have a plan for my future, you know. So this will be, as David has stated, this will be a game-by-game approach.

Because of Doctor Appel's wishes, he wants to approach this from a game-by-game basis and monitor me from that perspective, like he has been, like we have been with the practices as well.

CHEN: One of the greatest players in the game right now, Alonzo Mourning says he's ready to get back in the game, coming back to the Miami Heat. Announcing, as you see there, a live press conference before reporters at American Airlines Arena, down in Miami, that he says he is ready to return.

Flanked today by his agent, David Falk, as well as his coach, Pat Riley. His agent saying today that the best guess of the top specialist who has been treating Alonzo Mourning is that at this time, playing does not pose any significant or greater risk than not playing. So it was up to Alonzo Mourning to make a decision, a very thoughtful one. Alonzo Mourning saying that he knows the future is not promised to him.

He thought it might take longer for him to work through his health treatments, but right now, he says, he wants to try to come back and play in this season. He thought it might be later in the season before he's able to do that, but he says he is ready. He's been conditioning himself. He's 6'10", weighs about 260 pounds, and we understand that he has been conditioning himself for the past few weeks.

Now, he says, he's ready to come back and play, and I'm sure the folks in Miami are glad to hear that.

CNN's continuing to follow this story, bringing you the latest developments on that and other events in the news.

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