SALT LAKE CITY — Karl Malone thought the Hall of Fame should have bent the rules for him last year.
As it turned out, The Mailman did not receive a special invitation to be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a year early to allow him to enter with Utah Jazz inductees John Stockton and Jerry Sloan in 2009.
"In my little crazy world," Malone said, "I thought maybe they would make an exception."
Even though he had to wait the full five years after retirement to become eligible to be nominated like all other players, Malone will at least get a chance to enter the Hall of Fame with his favorite passer in 2010.
The Jazz legends will both be immortalized in the hoops haven together Friday night along with the rest of their teammates from the original Dream Team. The U.S. men's basketball team, which clobbered all foes en route to the 1992 Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, Spain, is one of two teams that will be enshrined.
Malone still believes the Hall of Fame missed out on a marketing opportunity to have three guys from the same NBA organization enter together. In his mind, organizers could've easily rationalized the exception by saying, "We thought it would only be the right thing to do if Karl and John went in together."
That, of course, would have been the case had Malone retired with Stockton in 2003 instead of pursuing his NBA championship dreams the following season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
That extra year, he believes, shouldn't matter.
"And it wouldn't have been corny," Malone added. "That, right there, would have been awesome."
Coincidentally, that is the same description Malone used when speaking about joining Stockton and Sloan in the Hall of Fame as an individual. He is quite proud the Jazz have two players and a coach enter in their first year of eligibility in two years. He thought it would've been a historical hoops moment.
"To me," he said, "it's going to be awesome. ... That's pretty special."
Malone is honored but less stoked about going into the Hall of Fame with his first gold-medal-winning Olympic team.
"The Dream Team thing will be OK," Malone said, "but ... that was a team."
And what a team it was.
The high-powered Americans, tired of losing Olympic glory with amateurs, sent the most star-studded squad in basketball history to reclaim gold after the IOC changed a rule to allow professionals to join the Games.
The team included two players entering the Hall of Fame this week in Malone and Scottie Pippen, along with eight players who have already been enshrined, including Stockton, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. It also included Hall of Fame coaches in the late Chuck Daly, the head coach, and assistants Mike Krzyzewski and Lenny Wilkens.
The Dream Team was nothing short of a nightmare on opponents, winning its eight games by an average margin of 43.8 points. Croatia gave the U.S. its biggest scare, losing by only 32 points. Barkley led the U.S. in scoring with 18 points per game on 71.1 percent shooting. He also had one of the most memorable moments when he roughed up an Angolan player in a 116–48 blowout win.
Malone tied Chris Mullin, a 2010 Hall of Fame finalist, for team rebounding honors with 5.3 per outing to go with his 13 points per game. Stockton, recovering from an ankle injury, averaged a team-low 2.8 points.
Every living member of that 1992 team and the also-to-be-enshrined 1960 U.S. men's Olympic basketball squad are expected to attend this weekend's ceremony Friday night in Springfield, Mass.
That '60 club was a dream team of its own, also compiling an 8-0 record and smashing foes by an average of 42.4 points en route to the gold medal. That team, which included 10 future NBA players, was led by Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Jerry West and Walt Bellamy.
"To have the two U.S. Olympic teams coming in and to have each member of both teams arriving in Springfield to celebrate the occasion is outstanding," Basketball Hall of Fame president John L. Doleva said in a statement.
Doleva called the entire Class of 2010 "a diverse and distinguished group." Along with Malone, Pippen and the two U.S. squads, the inductees will include Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., and posthumous honorees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira.
What: Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony
When: Friday night
Where: Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass.
Who: Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., the 1960 and 1992 U.S. men's Olympic basketball teams and posthumous honorees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira.
Watch: Class of 2010 press conference — Friday, 8 a.m. (NBA.com); Enshrinement ceremony — Friday, 5 p.m. (NBA-TV)