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Alonzo Mourning's All-Star Rebound

The NBA champ talks to WebMD about his recent battle with kidney disease, why he decided to team up with the National Kidney Foundation, and his enduring love for the game.
By Rob Baedeker
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Tell us about your new PSA push with the National Kidney Foundation. What are you and your wife, Tracy, trying to accomplish through the campaign?

First and foremost, we're trying to bring as much attention as possible to kidney disease; educate the general public about risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and family history; share the warning signs and the importance of regularly seeing your doctor; and highlight organ donation. So many people have kidney disease and just don't know it, which is why it's so important to create a relationship with your doctor. The National Kidney Foundation provides free kidney screenings around the country.

You had a kidney transplant in 2003. That would have been reason enough to retire, but you came back to play in the NBA 2004. Why?

I came back because I knew that I had work to do. Since I went through transplantation, I felt it was my mission to touch other people's lives through the pain that I had to go through. I have been able to use my experience to enlighten -- and provide hope and support to -- individuals who are battling all kinds of physical obstacles, such as kidney disease, cancer, and diabetes. Being back on the court has helped to lift other's lives.

How did you first discover your kidney disease (focal glomerulosclerosis)? What was the cause?

I found out about my condition through a routine, annual, preseason team physical. Once they ruled out all of the possible known causes, and made sure that I did not have diabetes, they came to conclusion that I had [focal glomerulosclerosis], which lead to kidney failure.

Did the disease (and the transplant) change the way you think about your body and your health?

Yes, very much so. I always say that people pay more attention to the type of gas they put in their car than the food they put in their mouth. When I was first diagnosed, I started making decisions about what was healthy for my body.

Did it change the way you play?

Absolutely, since the medication that I am on affects my endurance. It has limited the minutes that I can play, which has been an adjustment for me.

How did it affect your relationship with your second cousin (Jason Cooper), who donated his kidney to you?

After not seeing each other for over 25 years, it definitely drew us closer together. We have established a brotherly type of relationship.

How is your health right now?

Fantastic, and very stable. My doctors are pleased. I feel strong and healthy, and part of my success has been my ability to be open to different holistic treatments.

What is your best health habit? Your worst?

Best: I keep my body strong and continue to practice yoga. Worst: Pizza!

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