When news of the death of Moses Malone arrived earlier in the week, I had not planned on doing one of these post dedicated to him. Then I started to read a bit about him, and then I heard Tony Kornheiser speak about him on his radio podcast on Monday. Then came the write-up on him in the new Sports Illustrated, and I thought that this guy deserves to be noted.
Malone was the first player to skip college entirely and go directly to the pros from high school. He was drafted by and signed by the then Utah Stars of the ABA, and thus began a career that would span nine different teams, twenty-one seasons, three NBA MVP Awards, and one championship season with the Philadelphia 76'ers in 1983. Malone's career spanned a time when I was paying little attention to pro basketball, and the media coverage of the NBA paled in comparison to what it is today, so I was unaware of what a dominant player he was.
NBA stats don't resonate as much as, say, 40 home runs or 100 RBIs in baseball, or 1,000 yards rushing in football, but Malone scored over 29,000 points and pulled down over 17,800 rebounds over those 21 seasons, averaging 20.3 and 12.3 respectively for his career. In exactly 100 Playoffs games, Malone averaged 22.1 and 14.0. It has been said that the fact that Malone signed with the ABA was one of the factors that forced the NBA to merge and absorb four of the ABA teams into itself.
You read about him and about just how dominant he was, well, you can only conclude that he was some kind of player.
Kornheiser told the following story. When Malone was in high school in Petersburg, Virginia, head coach Lefty Driesell was trying desperately to recruit him to come to the University of Maryland. He would often leave College Park and fly on single engine private planes to Petersburg to watch Malone play and try to woo him. When people expressed concern for Driesell's safety making so many flights on such dangerous planes, Lefty's comment was "Some players are worth dying for."
RIP Moses Malone.