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"If he missed a jump hook in shoot-around or practice, he’d be like, 'Give me that ball back'"- Tim Hardaway on Alonzo Mourning's competitiveness and intensity

Not all could sustain that same intensity along with competitiveness and get their desired results. That was never the case with Zo.
Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning while playing for the Miami Heat in 1997 - 1998

Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning

Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning played six seasons together with the Miami Heat. In that stretch, “Tim Bug” and Zo developed a great bond as teammates, and in the process, Mourning showed Hardaway things the multi-time All-Star point guard never saw in a player.

The obvious answer

Nowadays, we see a lot of NBA players hype the crowd by showing off their intensity. However, not all could sustain that same intensity along with competitiveness and get their desired results. That was never the case with Mourning.

In an exclusive interview with Slam in 2020, Hardaway was asked to name the most competitive player he has ever played with. Having witnessed Mourning’s intensity and competitiveness firsthand, “Mr. Crossover” outright said that guy is none other than Zo.

According to Hardaway, prime Mourning had no chill, even in team practices. And more importantly, Zo had zero tolerance for underperformance and mistakes, especially for himself.

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“Are intense and competitive the same thing? If so, I’ll say Alonzo Mourning. By far Alonzo Mourning,” Hardaway pointed out. “…If he missed a jump hook in shoot-around or practice, he’d be like, ‘Give me that ball back, give me that ball back.’ He had to make that jump hook the same way before Coach Pat [Riley] could talk. It was amazing. That’s how competitive he was. He wanted everything to be right.”

Earning respect from it

Intensity and competitiveness are two key ingredients of a basketball rivalry. And back in the 90s, players didn’t lack any of the two, so they often clashed with their peers on the court. As for Mourning, he had his fair share of rivalries, of course.

Zo’s most notable nemesis back then was New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing. The two colossal All-Stars crossed paths several times at the peak of the Heat-Knicks playoff rivalry, and in the end, that same high-level intensity and competitiveness saw Mourning earning Ewing’s respect. In fact, when Zo was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease in 2002, Ewing was open to donating one of his own to the former foe.

“You know I will always be there for him. If my kidney matches, I’ll be happy to donate one. If it comes down to that. He knows that,” Ewing once said.

Indeed, Mourning wasn’t the biggest, strongest, and most talented center ever to play the game. But as far as intensity and competitiveness go, he’s definitely among the leaders of the pack.

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