MATTHEWS – It has been 24 years since NBA Hall of Fame member Alonzo Mourning last donned a Charlotte Hornets jersey, but it is obvious that fans still have fond memories of his three seasons in the Queen City.
Over 100 fans lined up Feb. 17 at the Academy Sports + Outdoor store to get an autograph and picture with the retired player picked second overall by the Hornets in the 1992 NBA Draft.
Mourning played 16 seasons in the NBA, including 11 with the Miami Heat, where he was part of a team that won the 2006 NBA Championship. Mourning, who was in town for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, is currently the vice president of player programs and development for the Miami Heat, which covers community outreach and mentoring young players.
Before greeting fans, Mourning surprised three local families at a private reception with a $1,000 Academy shopping spree at the store. Mourning and Academy presented gift cards to Mint Hill police officer Michael Austin, Mint Hill Fire Department firefighter Mark Thomas and United States Marine Sergeant Mina Mechreki. The three families were also presented authentic NBA jerseys autographed by Mourning.
“Any time you have the opportunity to honor heroes in our community, you want to take advantage of that,” said Academy marketing representative Corey Thomas. “They do so much in our community and in our state and country. We want to show our appreciation in the best way that we can, and this is just a small token of our appreciation.”
Austin was recently selected as the Mint Hill Police Officer of the Year. Chief of Police Tim Ledford said selecting Austin to receive this honor was an easy decision.
“The timing was spot on,” Ledford said. “We wanted him to have this award.”
Thomas said events honoring first-responders and members of the Armed Forces and their families is the best part of his job.
“Not only does this event allow local fans to meet and greet with Alonzo,” Thomas said, “but there is a purpose behind this in honoring and showing our gratitude to those men and women across the country who are first-responders.”