NBA champions Shaq and Alonzo Mourning talk charity, pickleball and the state of pro basketball

Key Points
  • Former teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning are working together again to refurbish a basketball court in Miami.
  • In an interview with CNBC, the 2006 NBA champions reflected on the state of the NBA and their advice to younger players.
The Shaquille O'Neal Foundation & Icy Hot unveil the latest "Comebaq Court," refurbished athletic spaces helping underserved communities get back in the game, in collaboration with Alonzo Mourning at Overtown Youth Center in Miami, Flori on November 30, 2022. 
Rob Kim | Getty Images

NBA champions Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning are reuniting to give fans reason to cheer again in Miami.

The former Heat centers, who brought Miami an NBA championship in 2006, are teaming up to refurbish a basketball court as part of a $20 million renovation at a youth center in South Beach. The project is funded by the Shaquille O'Neal Foundation and its longtime partner Icy Hot, as part of their Comebaq Courts program that fixes up rundown courts.

Comebaq Courts has also refurbished basketball courts in Las Vegas, Nevada and Newark, New Jersey.

The latest "Comebaq Court" is located in Miami, inside Mourning's Overtown Youth Center.

"When I got drafted in 1992, the first thing my mom said to me was 'Baby, now that you're rich and famous, you have a responsibility'," O'Neal said. "She said all these kids look up to you, you have to say the right thing and do the right thing."

The commitment to giving back was among the topics O'Neal and Mourning discussed in an interview with CNBC that included a weighing in on the state of the NBA and pickleball. They noted they want to pay it forward and ensure the next generation has the resources to win on and off the court.

"Shaq and I didn't get here by ourselves. We got here because of the contributions of other people. I'm very fortunate and I know he is very fortunate for those people to help us get to this point," Mourning said.

O'Neal said he grew up in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. His father insisted that he go across the street to the Boys & Girls Club to stay out of trouble. That's where he developed his basketball game and a passion for being a disc jockey.

"Basketball was a life-changing event for me. It's helped me stay out of trouble," O'Neal said.

The newly renovated court is slated to reopen in 2023.


Shaq and Alonzo Mourning on the pickleball craze
Shaq and Alonzo Mourning on the pickleball craze

With pro basketball in the rearview mirror for the former NBA stars, CNBC asked about America's hottest new sport: pickleball.

"I think we'll stick with the basketball court," Mourning said with a laugh. "Don't get me wrong, but it is more designed for an older generation."

O'Neal expressed more interest: "I'm actually looking at investing in a team. I'm still thinking about it," he said.

O'Neal said his son came to him recently with the investment idea. Pickleball has seen explosive growth in both participants and investment money, including from basketball stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant and team owners Mark Cuban and Wes Edens.

"I had a chance to play it a couple of times, you know, so it's pretty entertaining. You can get an incredible workout and you know, so I like it. I really do," said Mourning.

State of the NBA

O'Neal and Mourning also shared their thoughts on the state of the NBA.

Mourning praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for doing "an incredible job," and joked that he wished he were playing today, a nod to bigger contacts and endorsement money.

"The pie is extremely big from these TV contracts and the players are reaping the benefits. So yeah, the game is in a good place," Mourning said.

O'Neal also offered advice to today's NBA players: Don't forget your youngest fans.

"They [the fans] pay a lot of money for what you collect. So, I urge you guys to keep playing hard, keep playing well, don't just take the money and disappear. ... But think about the little kid that's wearing your jersey."

Shaq & Alonzo Mourning team up to refurbish Miami basketball courts
Shaq & Alonzo Mourning team up to refurbish Miami basketball courts