Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> The NBA lost one of its all-time greats when Moses Malone died Sunday at age 60. What will you remember most about the “Chairman of the Boards?”
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll remember Moses as a man of few words, whose comments took on greater import and pithiness because he wasn’t all that talkative. I’ll remember the pools of sweat he left at both ends of every court on which he played – hardest working and most perspiring man in the game at the time. Unfortunately, though, I think I’ll remember how jarring it was to see Malone play for so many teams in his career. Legendary players aren’t supposed to pack their bags that often – even skipping his ABA stops due to that league’s shoddy finances, Malone changed NBA teams eight times. For a while it almost seemed like a Moses-of-the-month club, with Malone spread around the league so everyone could have him for a stint. Guess that makes him both old-school and very modern, as pro athletes go.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Probably the tenacity. It seemed like if there was a rebound anywhere in the area code, he would grab it. Imagine the number of times an opponent got chewed out by their coach for not sealing Malone off the offensive boards. Coaches must have gone hoarse. Moses had good size, but he wasn’t Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain. But when the ball was coming off the rim, it didn’t matter.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Moses wasn’t the most eloquent speaker and was rather reluctant to do interviews, but he came up with a few gems. Of course, there was “fo, fo, and fo” and also the quip about “me and four guys from Petersburg” being able to beat up the Celtics in The Finals. He nicknamed his two young boys “Harvard” and “Yale” because that’s where he said they were going to school (neither did). And finally, Moses remarked how he “learned” Hakeem Olajuwon how to play the game and after getting roasted by a young Hakeem regretted that he “learned him too good.”
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I don’t know if “underrated” is the right word, but looking back at Malone’s career, he clearly doesn’t get mentioned enough as one of the best big men in NBA history. When you look at his shooting numbers (49 percent for his career, only five seasons at 50 percent or better), he obviously wasn’t as efficient as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal. But by rebounding so many of his own misses (and that he shot free throws better than all of those guys), he kind of made up for that. Really, his numbers are right there with Shaq.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: In addition to this Air Force 1 poster that hung on the bedroom wall when I was a kid, it’s the fact that Moses was a technician. The polish and proficiency of his game, on both ends of the floor, is what will always stick out to me about him. He dominated with what would classify now as an “old school” style that didn’t rely on his physical prowess as much as it did his pure skill and ability to wear you out by beating you to all the sweet spots on the floor. You don’t score and rebound the way he did, at his size, without being an absolute technician.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I think about how he was underestimated when the ABA folded in 1976. In the ensuing dispersal draft Malone was chosen second by the Blazers (their first pick was Maurice Lucas) and was then unloaded to the Buffalo Braves for a first-round pick (which turned into Rick Robey). The Blazers already had Bill Walton, who would lead them to the 1976-77 championship — but that doesn’t change the fact that they and the Braves undervalued 21-year-old Malone, who was traded again for a pair of first-rounders (Wesley Cox and Micheal Ray Richardson) to the Rockets. Two years later, Malone would be the NBA’s MVP, and in 1981 he would lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals. The misunderstanding of his potential was stunning.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I was in middle school in 1988, when my hometown Atlanta Hawks signed a then 32-year-old Moses Malone to team him with Dominique Wilkins and Reggie Theus and give the Hawks, finally, a potent inside-out attack and make them a presumptive Eastern Conference contender. I may have only been a kid, but I knew enough about the NBA to know that these Hawks had a chance to be special, so I mowed lawns all summer and raised $205 and bought a $5 season ticket for that ’88-89 season. By then Moses wasn’t the dominant glass demon he’d been earlier in his career, but he was still effective and still worthwhile. The main thing I remember was how often he seemed to miss short shots intentionally when nobody was near him, and how through this my friends and I learned what it meant to “pad” one’s stats. Many times after games, we would hang around near the locker rooms and ask for autographs. Moses wasn’t the most enthusiastic autograph giver, but he usually made himself available eventually. One night someone asked him if he had any extra shoes he could give away, and without looking up, Moses said, “Ain’t got no shoe contract.” What made this even better was he was starring in a national Nike commercial at the time.