Heat center Alonzo Mourning will miss this basketball season to undergo treatment for a kidney ailment, coach Pat Riley announced Monday.
"Alonzo Mourning will not be playing professional basketball this season, and we're totally convinced that the only thing that should be on his mind is getting healthy," Riley said.
Doctors treating Mourning described the illness that has sidelined him indefinitely as Focal Glomerulosclerosis.
Mourning, 30, hadn't appeared in public since Oct. 3, when he attended the team's media day. Training camp began without him the following day, and he has not practiced because of his condition, which was discovered during a routine physical. Mourning had complained about swollen feet and legs, and doctors initially thought it was a viral infection or fatigue.
"I'm a blessed individual I have a lot to be thankful for," Mourning said, discussing his ailment publicly for the first time. "There are a whole lot of people that are worse off than me."
The All-Star center helped the U.S. Olympic team win the gold medal in Sydney. He was expected to lead a revamped Miami team widely considered to be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference.
Dr. Gerald Appel, of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, said 20 percent of people have the disease, adding it's an epidemic among African Americans.
Appel said kidneys of people with the condition leak protein into their urine. Without treatment, filters in the kidneys eventually become scarred, cease to function and a transplant needed.
"I am confident this is not related to HIV, drug abuse or anything Alonzo did," Appel said, adding that the origin of Mourning's condition is "idiopathic," or unknown.
Appel said Mourning will be placed on a six-month trial of treatment.
"Some athletes come off medication and lead a normal life," Appel said.
But even with treatment, over 50 percent of cases develop chronic renal failure, he said. The kidney disorder used to be the fourth largest cause of death in the United States.
Victor Richards, another physician treating the All-Star center, said Mourning has not been placed on a waiting list for a kidney transplant because doctors diagnosed his condition in its early stage, and hope to keep it from worsening.
Doctors initially suspected Mourning had a viral infection, thyroid condition or merely fatigue from a busy offseason.
Beginning Aug. 23, Mourning was on the road with the U.S. Olympic for nearly six weeks, logging more than 40,000 air miles. He went to New York, Hawaii, Japan and finally Australian. He crossed the Pacific Ocean four times, returning briefly to Miami for the birth of his second child and then flying bck to Sydney to help the Americans win the gold medal.
Mourning missed the Heat's first exhibition game last week against the New Jersey Nets.
With a healthy roster, the Heat are widely regarded as the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Without Mourning, the outlook would change drastically.
Mourning finished third in voting for the NBA's most valuable player last season, when he averaged 21.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game. He has missed only seven games the past two seasons.
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2000 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.