Stern message: NBA commissioner has fond memories of the Mailman

Published: Sunday, Aug. 8 2010 10:50 p.m. MDT

NBA commissioner David Stern, above, had the opportunity to watch Karl Malone's 19-year career up close and personal. With Stern in attendance, the Mailman will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Friday.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Like many NBA fans, David Stern has some pretty fond memories of Karl Malone.

In what would have to be considered a pretty sweet perk to his job, the commissioner was there, in fact, for some of the highlights of The Mailman's career.

This week will be no exception.

Once again, Stern will enjoy some right-place-right-time fortunes with Malone. On Friday night, he'll be among the large crowd to personally witness one of the greatest power forwards of all-time get inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Mailman will be enshrined at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., along with Bulls great Scottie Pippen, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, WNBA star Cynthia Cooper, high school coaching legend Bob Hurley, Sr. and posthumous honorees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira.

Malone will actually be enshrined twice, seeing as the 1992 Dream Team will also enter the Hall of Fame along with the 1960 U.S. men's Olympic basketball squad.

"I think," Stern said, "it's great that he's going into the Hall of Fame. And I'm looking forward to it."

Stern also had fun looking back on some lasting Malone moments from a 19-year career that included two Most Valuable Player trophies, 14 All-Star invitations, a pair of Olympic gold medals and 36,928 NBA points scored, a massive amount that still ranks No. 2 all-time.

Stern recalls giving Malone his first MVP trophy in 1997, something he did again in '99. He remembers watching Malone play in "some pretty great battles," no doubt including three NBA Finals appearances in 1997, '98 and '04.

Stern was also thrilled to be among the attendees at the statue unveiling ceremony for Malone and sidekick John Stockton in front of the Jazz legends' old stomping grounds then known as the Delta Center.

The commish called that occasion "pretty neat, too."

Just reminiscing about The Mailman while speaking of his impending Hall of Fame induction made the much shorter and, well, much less muscularly sculpted NBA executive want to work on improving his posture.

"I remember somebody who stayed in shape," Stern said, smiling. "It makes me want to stand up straight when I think about how strong and how gifted and how extraordinary he is."

And the NBA's front office felt that way about Malone both on and off the court.

"Whenever we needed somebody to do something in the community in addition to being a perennial All-Star, Karl was there to do whatever had to be done," Stern said. "We just loved him."

The Louisiana Tech product gave people watching pro hoops plenty of chances to love him (or love to hate him) during his near two decades in the Association, especially during his 18 Jazz seasons.

While starring for Utah, Malone played in all 82 regular-season games 10 different times. He averaged 37.2 minutes — while scoring 25.0 points with 10.1 rebounds per game — during his entire NBA career.

Malone will be the fourth member of the Jazz family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in three years. Last year, Stockton and coach Jerry Sloan were enshrined. In 2008, Adrian Dantley, Malone's power forward predecessor in Utah, received the honor.

Malone recently announced that he will be presented into the hoops hall by a player he looked up to as a Louisiana kid. Former New York Knicks star Willis Reed was chosen by The Mailman, a Summerfield native who grew up five miles away from the Hall of Famer's small town of Bernice.

Naismith Memorial officials are expecting more Hall of Famers than ever to attend this week's festivities, which include the enshrinement ceremony at Symphony Hall on Friday and a private induction and ring party Saturday night.

Previous inductees expected to attend include Stockton, Sloan, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson and Jerry West, among others.

If you watch…

Karl "The Mailman" Malone will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this week.

Springfield, Mass. Symphony Hall

Friday, 5 p.m.

TV: ESPN

e-mail: jody@desnews.com

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