ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith believes that Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning was more feared than Shaquille O’Neal during the 2006 NBA Finals.
Stephen A. Smith says Shaq wasn’t in his prime in Miami
“Shaq wasn’t in his prime anymore; it was D-Wade who delivered that championship against the Dallas Mavericks. At that particular point, Alonzo Mourning was feared more than Shaquille O’Neal.”
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) July 28, 2023
The Heat ended up defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals behind some monster games from NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but Smith may be mistaken about his take on O’Neal.
In the 2005-06 season, O’Neal led the NBA in field-goal percentage (60.0 percent) while making the All-Star Game. He averaged 20.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. While the numbers were lower than those of his prime years with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, there is no doubt that O’Neal was still a force.
Meanwhile, Mourning was nearing the end of his NBA career at the time of the 2006 NBA Finals. He only played two more NBA seasons, appearing in 102 regular season games following the 2005-06 season.
In the 2005-06 campaign, Mourning averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He was still a defensive force for Miami and certainly feared on that end, but he wasn’t the same offensive player that he was earlier in his career.
During the 2006 NBA Finals, O’Neal took a bit of a back seat on offense – attempting just 9.3 shots per game – but he still shot 60.7 percent from the floor and averaged 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in the series.
Meanwhile, Mourning played sparingly in the Finals that season, averaging just 11.0 minutes per game across the series with Dallas. He put up 4.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Based on those averages, it’s hard to see where Smith is coming from with this take.
At that point in his career, Mourning was more of a role player for Miami, though he did start for the team from time to time when O’Neal was out.
O’Neal may not have been the same dominant force that he once was, but it’s pretty clear he had a larger impact on Miami that season and during the Finals, compared to Mourning.
A three-time NBA Finals MVP, O’Neal is getting the short end of the stick in this take by Smith, and Heat fans certainly know just how important he was to the team winning that title in 2006.