CHESAPEAKE, Va. - It was originally scheduled for March of 2020, but it was worth the wait.
Alonzo Mourning served as the keynote speaker for the 9th Chesapeake Sports Club Jamboree on Thursday night, an event postponed two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mourning addressed the crowd of nearly 600 people at the Chesapeake Conference Center, discussing how he found his purpose in life and encouraging those in attendance to do the same. Paying it forward and giving back were among his main messages.
"I just want them to feel my gratitude more than anything, how grateful I am for the individuals that paved the way for me," Mourning told News 3 prior to his speech.
Mourning attended Indian River High School and led the Braves to 51 straight wins and a state championship. Gatorade, USA Today, Parade and Naismith recognized him as the National High School Player of the Year. He played his college basketball at Georgetown University and was the second overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. At the professional level, he saw his brightest NBA years with the Miami Heat and helped them to an NBA Championship in 2006, winning NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice. Mourning currently serves in a front office role with the organization.
"As I kid I was still trying to figure it out and I was fortunate enough to have strong, positive voices of influence around me to help keep me on the right track," the Indian River product said. "A lot of the individuals that really helped contribute to my success, not just as a professional athlete, but as a man."
Mourning shared some of his life's key moments with the crowd, including his kidney transplant in 2003, his experience in foster care and what led to his decision to attend Georgetown, as John Thompson was the only coach who promised that he'd graduate.
Western Branch graduate and current Kentucky track and field standout Shadajah Ballard was named the club's Female Athlete of the Year.
Kurt Powdar, an Oscar Smith product who competes on the track and field team at Florida, was the Male Athlete of the Year, while former Great Bridge head wrestling coach Matt Small was honored as Coach of the Year.
News 3 Sports Director Marc Davis served as the program's Master of Ceremonies.
The Chesapeake Sports Club was founded in 2011 and works to raise scholarship money for Chesapeake Student Athletes. The club has awarded more than $190,000 in scholarship money.