Karl Malone is the standout power forward
for the Utah Jazz
of the National Basketball Association
. Malone stands 6 feet, 9 inches, and weighs 255 pounds, and is a perennial fixture at the NBA All-Star Game
He was born in Summerfield, Louisiana, on July 24th, 1963. He played collegiately at Louisiana Tech. After redshirting his freshman season, Malone averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds as a sophomore, while shooting an excellent 58 percent from the floor. In those days, underclassmen rarely declared for the NBA Draft, and so Malone remained in school for his junior and senior seasons. His scoring average dropped in each of those two seasons, but Malone worked on other facets of his game. As a sophomore, Malone only recorded 10 assists for the entire season, and as a senior, he recorded 73.
Malone was drafted with the 13th pick of the 1985 NBA Draft, by the Utah Jazz. Patrick Ewing was the #1 pick that year, and along with Chris Mullin, was the only legitimate NBA star to be picked ahead of Malone. The other ten players drafted ahead of Malone included Detlef Schrempf and Charles Oakley, who went on to forge respectable NBA careers; and absolute busts such as Jon "Contract" Koncak, Joe Kleine and Keith Lee. The Chicago Bulls had the 11th pick that year, and chose Keith Lee, costing them a chance at assembling what could have been the greatest team of all time, with Malone playing alongside Michael Jordan.
The 1984 Utah Jazz were a mediocre team that won only half of its games, and just managed to scrape its way into the playoffs as the seventh seed. The Jazz had a rookie backup point guard named John Stockton, and the combination of Stockton and Malone would go on to record a string of 15 straight playoff appearances. Malone started and played heavy minutes in his first season, averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. The only weaknesses in his game were a Shaq-like free throw percentage of .481, and a propensity for turnovers. Malone's scoring average climbed in each of his next four seasons. He worked diligently on his free throws, shooting 60 percent in his second season and 70 percent in his third. His fourth season was statistically his most impressive, with averages of 31 points and 11 rebounds.
Malone and Stockton's signature play was the pick and roll. It is one of basketball's simplest and most effective plays. Malone sets a pick for Stockton out near the three point line, then rolls toward the basket. The intent is to cause a defensive mixup that will either leave Malone open for a layup or a dunk, or Stockton open for a jump shot.
Malone's nickname is "The Mailman", for his remarkable consistency, as in "The Mailman always delivers". Malone has scored 2,000 or more points in 12 of the last 13 seasons. This streak was only broken by the strike shortened season in 1999. Since his rookie season, Malone's averages have never dropped below 21 points or 8 rebounds. In a 16-year NBA career, all of it spent in Utah, Malone has only missed 7 games. While he has been a consistent scorer, he has never led the league in scoring. He has led the league in free throws made in eight different seasons, and in turnovers once. He is the Jazz' all time leader in points and rebounds, has won two Olympic gold medals, has been named MVP twice, and has made the All-NBA First Team eleven times. He was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players, and at the age of 38 continues to be a force of nature on the basketball court. His superior conditioning has allowed him to dominate at an age when most players are watching the games on TV.
One thing that has eluded Malone is an NBA title. The Jazz reached the Finals twice, in 1997 and 1998, only to lose to Michael Jordan's Bulls. The Jazz have struggled in the playoffs ever since, most notably in 1999 when they were knocked out by the Portland Trail Blazers and Malone was badly outplayed by Portland's "Rasta Monsta", Brian Grant.
Malone is an excellent offensive player, possessing an extremely accurate jump shot nearly to the three point line, and an assortment of post moves that usually result in a basket or a foul. On defense, Malone shows his age a little bit more, as he has lost some quickness and some ups over the years. Unlike other legends of his time, Malone has been able to adjust his game to the changing trends in NBA play and has been able to slow the deterioration of his physical skills, and will probably be an effective player well into his 40's.