Utah Jazz: Karl Malone a no-brainer Hall-of-Famer

Published: Sunday, April 4 2010 12:24 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — You might've surprised the Utah Jazz with word that Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington and the Kardashian clan, including Mrs. Lamar Odom, cheered for them Friday in Los Angeles instead of the Lakers.

Or you could've informed them that they had to sing a hymn at LDS general conference or that Greg Ostertag was re-signed for the playoff push.

All of that would've been shocking on multiple levels.

But the news that Karl Malone will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this summer?

Not exactly eyebrow-raising stuff there, considering he's the NBA's No. 2 all-time-leading scorer, a two-time league MVP, a double Olympic gold-medal winner and a 14-time All-Star.

"It's not surprising. It's not news for me," Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko said Saturday when told, as he'd expected, that The Mailman had been elected to the Hall of Fame, according to a report by the The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

"He is a Hall of Famer, like John Stockton is a Hall of Famer, Jerry Sloan's a Hall of Famer," added Kirilenko, the Jazz's only remaining player who was a teammate of Malone's. "So it was just a matter of time when their time was going to be (to get) inducted. But (Malone's) definitely supposed to be there."

Malone's official time to be enshrined with the Class of 2010 will come Aug. 13 in Springfield, Mass. — a year after Jazz stalwarts Sloan and Stockton entered basketball immortality.

"Karl Malone deserves it," Sloan said, matter-of-factly.

Malone, who led the Jazz to consecutive NBA Finals in 1997 and '98, will be inducted along with Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen, the late Boston Celtics standout Dennis Johnson, New Jersey high school coaching legend Bob Hurley Sr. and likely the 1992 Dream Team, according to various media reports. The official Hall of Fame announcement, which could include enshrinement news for even more of the 19 finalists, will happen Monday at Indianapolis before the NCAA men's championship.

Malone's spot in the hoops haven has been all but a mere formality since he retired after finishing his 19-year NBA career with the Lakers at the end of the 2003-04 season. Like Stockton and Sloan in 2009, the 11-time first-team All-NBA standout was elected in on his first ballot.

"I'm happy for him. He definitely deserves it — one of the best players to ever play the game, best power forward ever," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "That was a no-brainer that he was going to be in the first go-around."

It wasn't Malone's eye-popping statistics or accolades that his Jazz family appreciates most.

Sure, scoring 36,928 career points — second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabaar — is an impressive accomplishment. Being the only player to be named All-NBA first team 11 times is wow-worthy, too. And having career averages of 25.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals and .8 blocks for nearly two decades is laudable, too.

But the Jazz believe a four-letter word best defines Malone's legacy — and it isn't stat.

It is, rather, work.

Make that two four-letter words. Hard work — and lots of it. His uncanny work ethic helped him continually improve facets of his game and be in good enough condition to play darn near every night for 18 seasons with the Jazz. He played in 82 games in 10 of 17 full-length seasons with the Jazz, and only sat out 15 times (compared to 1,434 appearances with Utah). A few of his misses were due to league-mandated suspension.

"He worked hard every day, as hard as any player you could have work," Sloan said. "And when the game started, he laid it out there on the line — good, bad or ugly. He liked to compete."

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