“It was D-Wade who delivered that championship” – Stephen A. Smith asserts Shaquille O'Neal wasn’t most dominant center on Heat during 2006 NBA Finals

Stephen A. Smith discusses Shaquille O
Stephen A. Smith discusses Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade's contributions to Finals team

Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade went on an impressive run during the 2006 NBA playoffs, capturing an NBA title for the Miami Heat. While it's no secret that Wade's contributions largely fueled the team to success, Shaquille O'Neal's input can't be ignored.

Throughout the 2006 NBA playoffs, O'Neal averaged 18.4 points and 9.8 rebounds over 33.0 minutes per game. Although he wasn't the unstoppable force that he was in LA, where O'Neal averaged over 30ppg for two straight finals, he undoubtedly played a key role.

According to the outspoken analyst Stephen A. Smith, however, Shaquille O'Neal wasn't even the best center on the Heat during the 2006 NBA Finals. On a recent episode of ESPN's "First Take," Smith stated that Alonzo Mourning was more feared around the league than Shaquille O'Neal.

At the same time, Smith also stated that it was Dwyane Wade who did most of the heavy lifting when it came to the team's playoff run, a take that many agreed with.

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“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.”

Looking at Shaquille O'Neal's rivalry with Alonzo Mourning before their time in Miami

NCAA Men's Final Four - National Championship - Villanova v North Carolina
NCAA Men's Final Four - National Championship - Villanova v North Carolina

When Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning were selected first and second in the 1992 NBA draft, they immediately became rivals through no fault of their own. Given their shared position, the two had a natural rivalry that O'Neal even compared to Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain's rivalry.

Over the years, the two battled back and forth, with O'Neal famously winning the Rookie of the Year award over Mourning despite an early playoff exit. Mourning, who put up comparable numbers to Shaq during the regular season, maintains that he deserved the award given his playoff success that year.

2022 NBA All-Star Game
2022 NBA All-Star Game

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Fast forward to 2006, and the rivals found themselves on the same team with a common goal of winning an NBA title. Given that, the two competitors had to put things behind them.

As O'Neal recalled on an episode of "The Big Podcast," he sat Mourning down and apologized, extending an olive branch.

“I had beef with Alonzo Mourning,” O’Neal said. “Then, when he came to the Heat, I had to sit him down and apologize to him. I said, ‘You know what, Alonzo, I was a hypocrite. I never knew you were this great.’ Alonzo Mourning is a great dude.”

With the beef behind them, the two men went on to bring Miami the first championship in franchise history.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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