UNTIL last summer, when the United States men's and women's national basketball teams crossed paths in Charlotte, N.C., Shaquille O'Neal and Dawn Staley had never met. As 1994 draws to a close, they have both been named Athletes of the Year by USA Basketball, the national governing body of the sport, for their performance in international competition. Staley led the US to a gold medal at the Goodwill Games and a bronze medal at the world championships; O'Neal, the MVP of the men's world championships, powered the gold-medal-winning US team.
Both Staley and O'Neal are from the Northeast, and both attended Southern colleges.
What differentiates them, besides their height and gender, is fame. O'Neal, a multimillionaire professional, revolves constantly in the public limelight as a celebrated National Basketball Association star and high-profile athletic endorser. Without a US women's pro league, Staley has slipped virtually out of sight, knocking around overseas waiting for an opportunity to try out for the 1996 American Olympic team that will play in Atlanta, where she and O'Neal will no doubt meet again.
Herein a side-by-side comparison.