Who knew there was such a difference between No. 1 and No. 2?
In 1992, Shaquille O'Neal was the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Orlando Magic. Drafted No. 2 by the Charlotte Hornets was Alonzo Mourning.
They're both in Miami now, one championing a cause and one trying to bring a championship to a team. Different goals for two completely distinct individuals. The two have displayed their differences since that draft day 12 years ago.
Mourning entered the league all fire and fury, anchoring a talented, young Hornets team into the playoffs with his defensive ferocity and intimidation. O'Neal entered the league wearing a Mickey Mouse hat, becoming the playful face of the NBA and taking all the accolades despite falling just short of the playoffs his rookie season.
It would signal a trend. Mourning, who at 6 foot 10 was undersized for his position, would spend the next decade making up for his size deficit with an unmatched work ethic, becoming the league's ultimate warrior with his unrelenting intensity. O'Neal, who was blessed with a 7-1, 340-pound frame and quick feet, would take advantage of his physical gifts while captivating the world with his charm and multitude of talents.
For his effort, Mourning received a career full of heartbreak, which came to an unexpectedly sudden end. For his, O'Neal has won three championships, nearly missed two others and still has an opportunity to build on his legacy.
Who knew there was such a difference between No. 1 and No. 2?
"O'Neal is much more of a center than I was," said Mourning, who this weekend is hosting the eighth annual Zo's Summer Groove charity event. "I'm a forward with a center mentality. At the same time, he is extremely massive, so it's very difficult to stop him because of his size and because of his ability to move at that size. You don't find too many 350-pound guys that are as agile as he is. I've seen a lot of 350-pound guys, but they're slow. He's huge, and he can move, so that makes him more affective."
It's largely because of that size that O'Neal is considered the one unstoppable force in the NBA. His career averages of 27.1 points and 12.1 rebounds are noticeably better than Mourning's 20 points and 9.7 rebounds.
"His size makes things so much easier for him because he can do things effortlessly," Mourning said. "A lot of times, he's got guys guarding him that are not even as strong as I am. And even with my strength, it's still difficult for me to stop that man. You got a guy like 7-6 Rockets center Yao Ming that can match his size and give him some problems, but he's not physically strong enough. If Yao Ming had my strength, he could probably handle him a little better. But nobody can measure up to him physically in order to stop him, so that makes him dominant -- much like Wilt Chamberlain in his prime."
But ask anyone who has watched Mourning and O'Neal closely, and they'll tell you it's Mourning who worked harder at his craft. Mourning had one of the best-sculpted bodies in the league while O'Neal's dedication to conditioning was questioned by his Lakers teammates.
"Alonzo, everybody knows the passion and dedication that he brought to the floor," former Spurs forward Sean Elliott said. "You never questioned if he was in shape or not. He was always there to play. He was a guy who was known to play with high energy and a lot of passion, and whenever you have somebody like that, that puts it out there on the floor, it's going to elevate your teammates.
"The No. 1 thing about being a leader is you need to set an example for your teammates. You have to put in the work in front of them, and Zo definitely did that."
If there was any statistic that best exemplified Mourning's relentless effort, it's blocked shots. Despite being three inches shorter than O'Neal, Mourning averaged 2.98 blocks in his career to O'Neal's 2.6.
O'Neal has been criticized for not playing his best defense at all times while such a statement was never whispered about Mourning. But Heat TV analyst and former NBA coach Mike Fratello says O'Neal's will shouldn't be judged by the number of shots he blocks.
"Players who have been handcuffed in college by whistles are often taught by the college coaches not to leave their feet so frequently," Fratello said. "It may in fact carry over into the NBA. There are those guys that get a lot of whistles on them, so they may be more judicious in their attempts to block shots just so they can stick around and be a contributor."
In fact, Fratello said despite the apparent differences between O'Neal and Mourning, the two have very key similarities.
"They both are guys that are a rare breed nowadays of guys who can actually play with their back to the basket from the low-post area, as opposed to the centers nowadays who seem to want to step out and shoot 18-foot jump shots all the time," Fratello said. "There aren't many of those centers left anymore. Both of them had that similarity.
"Shaq has a much different personality than Alonzo has, but that doesn't mean you're not a fierce competitor when you get on the floor. Both, I think, are willing to accept the responsibility of, 'Hey, I'm the guy on this team that needs to get it done, and these guys are going to follow me.' "
Off the court, both have a magnetic appeal as well. But again, the two take a much different approach to their community efforts. O'Neal makes random, big splashes, making his off-court actions seem just as enjoyable as those on it.
Mourning, meanwhile, has put in just as much consistent work into his philanthropic efforts as he did in his basketball career, creating and maintaining Alonzo Mourning Charities Inc. to help improve the lives of underprivileged children.
O'Neal has opened an apparel and marketing business in Compton, Calif., to help create jobs in the area. The $3 million facility made sportswear for O'Neal's brand TWIsM, an acronym for "The World is Mine." He donated $1 million to the Boys & Girls Club to help build centers that educate children about technology. He went through the poorest parts of Los Angeles dressed as Santa Claus and gave out presents.
It's classic O'Neal.
Mourning has other ventures, but his focus is to improve the lives of underprivileged South Florida youths, which is where his foundation comes in. It requires a consistent, steady effort to maintain. It's classic Mourning.
"You've got one out of 14 kids that graduate from school here in the Overtown area," said Mourning, who helped build the Overtown Youth Center to encourage children to focus on their education. "That's embarrassing, especially when you've got a multimillion dollar arena right up the street from it, and you're building a multimillion dollar cultural arts center right around the corner from it.
"Some of that money that's being invested around the community needs to be invested in it. Hopefully, by me opening my mouth, I'm going to bring more attention to it. I'm not going to stop until we see some results here."
Of course, Mourning's kidney disease and subsequent kidney transplant has ended his basketball career, but Miami is still his home.
So after 12 years of showing off how they contrast, Mourning and O'Neal now share a similar goal: bringing some joy to the people of South Florida.
"I'm happy for the Miami Heat," Mourning said of O'Neal's acquisition. "You look at team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison, they have done nothing but try to bring a champion to this city. Tim Hardaway and myself, we couldn't do it while we were here. We tried our best. I was able to talk to Micky a couple of days ago. He called me from Europe, and I congratulated him. I was happy for him. I haven't spoken to Riles yet, but I called him and left him a message.
"I'm excited for him. I'm excited for this city. It's going to bring revenue to this city, it's going to bring more attention to the area."