Best Heat Player (2006)

Alonzo Mourning

In 1992 the first choice in the NBA draft was Shaquille O'Neal. The second was Alonzo Mourning, and a rivalry, sometimes bitter, developed between the two centers. Last year Shaq and Zo became partners in the Miami Heat's ongoing quest for an NBA championship. In between exists enough triumph, adversity, and drama to fill a book (or ten). In any case, Zo's the man because of the intricacies of pro hoops, a team game in which back-up players are often as important as starters. And the drama. After coming to Miami in 1995 and delivering top-quality play for years, Mourning, who had been diagnosed with focal glomerulosclerosis, missed the entire 2002-2003 season because of what the media called his "career-ending" kidney illness. But Zo came back, played for New Jersey and Toronto, and was re-signed as a free agent by the Heat on March 1, 2005. The Heat then made its most promising run for NBA supremacy, losing by only six points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. With Shaq suffering an injury earlier in those playoffs (he returned for the finals), the Heat might not have made it as far as they did without Zo, who stepped in and filled Shaq's enormous shoes. And that's the key now, as the Heat has gone all-out (a number of trades, Pat Riley returning as coach) to finally go all the way. With Shaq being prone to minor injuries and missing free throws, it is Alonzo Mourning who could make the difference between supremacy and second place.


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