It's not a big secret that I, a non-LDS guy who was born in Canada and lived in Los Angeles during the Kareem/Earvin Johnson "Showtime Era", would not be a Utah Jazz fan if it wasn't for Karl Malone. Right now I get to write about the Jazz every day on the most popular destination for Jazz fans. I'm really lucky because I grew up all over the world where Utah Jazz fans were not. It's interesting. But not as interesting as Karl Malone is.
And today is his 50th Birthday. Love him or
hate love him, Karl Malone is without doubt the greatest power forward of all-time. He has the heart of a champion and has more accolades than I have blog posts. The problem is that on the court his record appears a little unfinished. He didn't get a title, despite going to the NBA Finals three times. He's not the first all-time in scoring, he's second. He didn't get to start as many All-Star games as he should have, and even once had to play through a lockout shortened season where they even got rid of the All-Star game (so he should have had at least one more). For many they look at Karl Malone's career as a product of this incompleteness. One more made free throw. One less turn over. One more playoff game. One fewer injury. It's a reductionalist point of view to see him as a consequence of incompleteness.
It's just not how I see him.
I see him as the baddest mofo out there, who took the league by storm, put the pretenders in their place, and powered a great number of crappy rosters to multiple 50 win seasons, and 5 Western Conference Finals in 7 years. He was great because of his internal motivation, and he was great because the Utah Jazz franchise took a chance on him, and believed in him that they played him over 30 mpg from the get go -- and then the very next season got rid of their former franchise corner stone to make sure he had enough room to flourish. (How many 30 ppg seasons did big Al Jefferson have? Was it zero? How many did Adrian Dantley have? Was it 5 out of 6 years in a row before Karl Malone arrived? Yes.)
Numerically Karl Malone is without peer.
- 4th All-time in games played
- 2nd All-time in minutes played
- 2nd All-time in Field goals made
- 2nd All-time in Field goals attempted
- 1st All-time in Free throws made
- 1st All-time in Free throws attempted
- 14th All-time in Offensive Rebounds
- 2nd All-time in Defensive Rebounds
- 7th All-time in Total Rebounds
- 48th All-time in Assists
- 11th All-time in Steals
- 61st All-time in Blocks
- and, yes, 2nd All-time in total points scored
His career (54,852 regular season minutes) averages of 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, and 0.8 BPG puts him not only at the head of the class for all power forwards ever, but he's in that God-tier All-Time for all NBA players. His advanced stats (like being #14 All-Time in cumulative PER or #3 All-Time in Win Shares) make me want to do this whenever I have to look at Big Al's numbers and be told he's a great first option. (NSFW)
His trophy chest is pretty full even without a championship ring already, with being an All-Star 14 times, All-NBA 14 times, All-NBA Defense 4 times, 2 All-Star Game MVPs, 2 NBA MVPs, and 2 Gold Medals (would have been 3 Gold Medals, so being Top 12 in the USA for over 12+ years, but he declined in 2000 because his mother just passed away).
The Hall of Famer didn't win Rookie of the Year (Ewing did), but we all know who had a better career -- even if all Karl did was make the All-Rookie team back then. (He still played 8,530 mins in his first three seasons though - if only he came off the bench for three years behind a crappy player he could have really been something instead, right David Locke?)
Malone's charity work deserves a whole website to document, not just a part of one post on a basketball themed blog. He was known for scoring on the court (and honestly, with 7 kids off of it too), but made some huge assists as a civilian. The biggest had to be more than just writing a check after Hurricane Katrina came by, and he defied the US Government itself to go into unsecured areas and do manual labor for weeks on his own dime.
I love Karl Malone. It wasand Kareem who helped me fall in love with the NBA. But it was Karl who made me fall in love with the Jazz. Thank you Karl for so much, more than half of my life has been influenced by the ups and downs of the team you raised to prominence.
You taught me that there is no substitute for hard work, and that if you develop consistency, in time your talents will shine brightest among your peers.