These Philly centers are dying too young. One of my all-time favorite players, Wilt Chamberlain (Yeah, yeah, he’s more known for being a Laker), also passed away fairly young.
Malone’s body was discovered when he failed to report to a celebrity golf tournament.
The only thing I liked about Malone was his nickname: Chairman of the Boards. How could I not like a nickname with my last name?
Don’t get me wrong, he was an awesome player. He won three MVP awards, and a championship. He had longevity, playing over 20 years (and starting in the ABA), coming into the NBA right out of high school. He was the last ABA player to be playing in the NBA.
The problem I had with him was that I was a Lakers fan. That meant if the teams met in the NBA finals or playoffs, I was rooting against them; although I still loved Julius Erving. What young basketball player wouldn’t appreciate watching Dr. J soar through the air, dunking the ball in a way that had never been seen before. I just hated watching Malone’s physical style of play, and how he never had a smile on his face. There was nothing more enjoyable than watching a Bill Walton, Magic Johnson, Bob Cousy, or Shaq. They’d do amazing things on the court, all with a smile on their face. They loved the game, and you could tell they appreciated the fact that they were paid handsomely to play it.
Those guys are all great with autograph requests. Malone…not so much.
Now, I only had one experience with him, but that was enough. I was a 13-year-old boy standing outside near the team bus. The Sixers had just destroyed the San Diego Clippers, and he had the most points he’d ever score in a game – 53! You’d think he’d be in a good mood and ready to sign autographs. Yet as we called the players names, most of them just walked by. I’m guessing when you’re heading to the team bus, that’s easier; especially when you’re the away team. You don’t need to hear heckling up close and personal, or risk getting assaulted. Sports fans can be nuts. Let’s not forget how the word “fan” originated (“fanatic”).
I did get their coach, former Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham, so I was thrilled. As Malone walked by me, I asked for his autograph. He looked down and scowled at me. I have no clue as to why.
I was a bit more shocked when a man that looked to be in his 80s, stepped in front of him. He held out his program and said, “You’ve got to sign this for me.”
Malone pushed him hard in the chest, with both hands. The guy went flying, landing on the ground. We were all shocked, even more so, when Malone stood over him as if he was ready to finish the job if this oldster stood up.
So, forgive me if I’m not singing his praises, like all the other former NBA players will be for the next few days.
If there’s a heaven…I’d like to imagine Darryl Dawkins dunking over him, smashing a backboard…and shards of that glass showering down on Moses Malone’s bald head.
What? Too soon?