American basketball player
In 1974, a 6-10 senior from Petersburg High school graduated from the courts of Virginia's public schools directly to the American Basketball Association (ABA), becoming the first professional player to skip college. During a career that spanned 21 years, seven teams and three most valuable player awards that youngster, Moses Malone, went on to become one of basketball's all-time great centers and 50 Greatest Players.
Wore Out Shoes Practicing
Born into a poor family in Petersburg, Virginia, Malone was raised by his mother Mary. Shy and awkward, the young Malone was already six-feet three-inches tall by the time he was 12 years old. From the very begining
an unrelenting work ethic, the hallmark of Malone's success, was apparent.
In a Playboy interview Malone recounted, "I didn't pick up a basketball until I was 13 and a half, but I worked hard even then. Every day after school, I'd go over to the playground and play ball until about two in the morning. The only trouble I had was I kept wearing out my shoes. Back then, I didn't get no high-priced shoes; I had to get them old P.F. Flyers. I'd wear them for about five days and then it was time for a new pair."
Malone sparked a bidding war among more than 300 colleges after he led Petersburg High School to 50 straight wins and two consecutive state championships. Always self-possessed, Malone told Playboy the feeding frenzy did not faze him. "Pressure? Pressure where? It was fun! I traveled every time I got a break. I visited at least 26 schools. I grew up thinking that Petersburg, Virginia was the best part of the world; but when I started visiting all those colleges, I realized Petersburg was the only part of the world I'd seen. It didn't change my feeling none about Petersburg, but things were a lot different on the West Coast, in the Southwest, in Hawaii, all over."
Finally choosing to enroll at the University Maryland in order to be near his mother, Malone attended classes for two and a half days before learning he had been drafted by the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. He signed a $3 million, five year contract and proved to be an immediate success. Playing guard until he bulked up enough to withstand the hammering at center, Malone averaged an amazing 18 points and 14 rebounds as a rookie.
The Mark of a Champion
After two years in the ABA, Malone became a force to be reckoned with in the NBA for over ten years. He led the Houston Rockets to the NBA finals in 1981 and was key to the Philadelphia 76ers 1983 NBA Championship victory.
By the time he retired, following the 1994-95 season, Malone had produced an awe-inspiring NBA stat sheet, having scored 27,409 points and grabbed 16,212 rebounds. He ranks first in NBA history from the free throw line with 8,531 points and second behind Wilt Chamberlain in free throws attempts with 11,090. Malone's dominance in the paint is evidenced by his standing as one of the league's preeminent rebounders. He ranks as the all-time leader in offensive rebounds with 6,731 and second behind Robert Parish in defensive rebounds with 9,481.
When his two years in the ABA are added the picture is even more decisive. During his 21 years in professional basketball, Malone racked up 29,580 points, fourth in the all-time list after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar , Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving , and ranks as the third all-time greatest rebounder in history behind Chamberlain and Bill Russell at 17,834. He leads the all-time list in free throws made with 9,018 and free throws attempted with 11,864.
Not quite as big as the league's other renowned centers, Malone made the most of his quickness and strength. Besides dominating the boards, leading the league in rebounds six times in a seven year span, Malone drew upon a treasure trove of crafty moves to score or get to the free throw line, averaging more than 20 points per game for 11 years. What's more, he did all this with finesse, playing 1,207 consecutive games without fouling out, the NBA record.
Malone was not given to analyzing strategy for the media's sake. Quiet around reporters and cameras, he chose to use his deep understanding of the game for what mattered most: winning.
The NBA Years
After his two seasons in the ABA, Malone joined the NBA in 1974, playing for the Buffalo Bravos and later for the Houston Rockets. Malone earned his first Most Valuable Player Award. Just two years later, in the 1980-81 season, he led the underdog Rockets all the way to the NBA finals.
The following season Malone was awarded his second Most Valuable Player award after averaging an impressive 31.1 point and 14.7 rebounds per game. During the off season the Rockets traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers where Malone was to reach the peak of his career. The 76ers roster boasted some of the league's all-time best players including Julius Erving, after Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney. With the addition of Malone the 76ers became unstoppable, going 65-17 for the regular season and steamrolling the postseason 12-1 to win the 1983 NBA championship. Malone was named MVP of the regular season and the NBA finals that year.
|1955||Born in Chesterfield County, Virginia|
|1968||Begins to play basketball at age 13|
|1973-74||Leads Petersburg High School to state victories and 50 consecutive wins|
|1974||Enrolls at University of Maryland; only attends two days of class.|
|1974||Drafted by Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association|
|1975||After Stars fold, plays remainder of season for ABA's St. Louis Spirit|
|1976||Selected by the NBA's Portland Trailblazers as the fifth overall pick in the ABA Dispersal Draft. Traded to Buffalo Braves before start of season. Plays two games with Braves then is traded to Houston Rockets.|
|1978-79||Leads league in rebounding. Sets NBA's all-time single season offensive rebound record (857)|
|1980-81||Leads team to NBA Finals|
|1981-82||Leads league in minutes played. Traded to Philadelphia 76ers|
|1983-84||Wins NBA Championship with 76ers|
|1984-85||Leads NBA in rebounding for fifth consecutive season, a league record|
|1985-86||Fractures orbit of right eye missing entire postseason. Traded to Washington Bullets.|
|1988-89||Signs as free agent with Atlanta Hawks.|
|1989-90||Scores 7,695th free throw to become NBA all-time leader. Breaks Wilt Chamberlain's record for most consecutive games without fouling out|
|1990-91||Signs with Milwaukee Bucks at the end of season|
|1992-93||Misses most of season due to back surgery|
|1993-94||Signs with 76ers as a free agent|
|1994-95||Signs with San Antonio Spurs as a free agent. Ruptures tendon in lowers right leg. Retires from basketball|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1975||Named to ABA All-Rookie Team|
|1975||Named to ABA All-Star Team|
|1979, 1982-83||Named NBA MVP three times|
|1979, 1982-83,||Named All-NBA First Team four times|
|1983||Named NBA All-Defensive First Team|
|1983||Named NBA Finals MVP|
|2001||Inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame|
The Later Years
During the 1985-86 season, in a game against Milwaukee, Malone suffered a broken eye orbit that cut his season short 8 games before the postseason. Without Malone, the 76ers did not fare well in the play-offs, losing to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After the end of the season the 76ers traded Malone to the Washington Bullets.
Malone continued to be among the league's top scorers and rebounders for the next four years, playing for the Washington Bullets and later for the Atlanta Hawks. Even late in his career Malone produced strong numbers. In the 1990-91 season, his 17th year as a professional, Malone averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds though he was now playing as a back-up for Jon Koncak. Playing for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1991-92 he averaged 15.6 points per game. After playing another season with the Bucks, Malone was signed as a free agent by Philadelphia for one more season primarily to mentor the 7 foot 6 inch rookie Shawn Bradley and finally finished his career as a backup player for San Antonio.
On October 4th, 2001 Malone was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame. When asked how he felt he replied, "When I first got the news, I really didn't give it much thought. Now I know it's one of the greatest honors you can get. Now you're at the top, the very top. There's nowhere else you can go in basketball once you get to the Hall of Fame. Everybody now recognizes you as one of the greatest players ever." In October 1996 the league named him one of the NBA's top 50 players of all-time.
Inspiring the Next Generations
Malone's jump from high school directly to the pro ranks and his ensuing success might have paved the way for other talented youngsters to do the same. Though there are a growing number of high school players naturally talented enough to make it onto an NBA court while in their teens, very few have the maturity, self possession and work ethic that it takes to remain a dominant player for nearly two decades.
|ATL: Atlanta Hawks (NBA); HOU: Houston Rockets (NBA); MILW: Milwaukee Bucks (NBA); PHIL: Philadelphia 76ers (NBA); SA: San Antonio Spurs (NBA); St L: St. Louis Spirit (ABA); UTA: Utah Stars (ABA); WASH: Washington Bullets (NBA).|
After a 21 year career in basketball, Malone retired at the age of 40 in 1995. He has two sons, Moses Jr. and Michael with Alfreda Gill from whom he is now divorced. His ex-wife and Michael live in Friendswood, Texas while Malone now lives in Sugarland Texas. Moses Jr. is a leading college basketball player at South Carolina State University. Since retiring Malone aspires to be a coach. In the meantime he often speaks to young people about the value of education and the importance of getting a college degree.
"Moses Malone." Galenet.com. Biography Resource Center. http://galenet.galegroup.com/ (December 10, 2002).
NBA.com. NBA History: Moses Malone. http://www.nba.com/ (December 10, 2002).
Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Inc. Hoopfame.com. http://www.hoopfame.com (December 10, 2002).
Pilot Online. http://www.pilotonline.com/sports/sp0218mol.html (December 03, 2002).
Sketch by Paulo Nunes-Ueno
|1917||Born at Nursery Stud in Lexington, Kentucky|
|1918||Begins training at Glen Riddle Farm|
|1919||Racing debut at Belmont Park|
|1919-20||Wins twenty of twenty-one career starts, breaking several records|
|1920||Wins final match race in Windsor, Ontario|
|1921||Retires to stud in Lexington, Kentucky|
|1947||Dies at age thirty in Lexington, Kentucky|