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With hard decisions, sooner is better

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in Leaders & Managers

Alonzo Mourning knows how to make tough calls. The NBA center started young.

• When he was 10 years old, he knew it would be better not to live with his parents, so he placed himself in foster care.

• A year later, Mourning still felt safer in a group home than with his parents. So when his father petitioned the state to get him back, the child had to stand before a judge and whisper that he wanted to stay in foster care.

• The first private foster home he visited made him feel scared, so he chose to remain in the group home.

• The second foster home he visited was different. His foster mother, Fannie Threet, had raised almost 50 children. Mourning lived with her until he went to college.

• After one brush with a drug kingpin at Georgetown—and thanks in part to stern intervention by coach John Thompson—Mourning kept himself on the straight and narrow.

• While he loved playing for the Charlotte Hornets, Mourning felt degraded by the owner, who hung up on him for trying to negotiate a “hometown discount” for less than he could make elsewhere. Mourning left.

• He nailed a new NBA contract and an Olympic gold medal by 2000, but his health sputtered as he developed a kidney disease. After a transplant, he drove the Miami Heat to a championship in 2006.

• The center tore both his patellar tendon and his quadriceps at the same time during a game in Atlanta in 2007. He refused to be carried out of the arena on a gurney and still won’t concede his career.

All good calls, most of them hard.

— Adapted from Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph, Alonzo Mourning with Dan Wetzel, Ballantine Books.

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