SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Humility and humor were a couple of prevailing themes regarding Karl Malone at this morning's Basketball Hall of Fame jacket presentation and press conference.
"I'm very humbled and honored to be here," Malone said while addressing the crowd assembled at the Naismith Memorial for this part of the weekend's Hall of Fame festivities.
Malone took the stage with fellow Class of 2010 honorees Scottie Pippen, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., Charles Barkley (for the 1992 Dream Team), Jerry West (1960 U.S. men's Olympic hoops team), and family representatives for posthumous inductees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel Pereira.
Most of the living members of the 1960 and '92 Olympic teams were also in attendance, including Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy from the famous amateur squad as well as John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson and Chris Mullin from arguably the greatest team in basketball history. (Michael Jordan is presenting Pippen at tonight's enshrinement ceremony but was not at this gathering.)
During his short speech, Malone expressed gratitude for his Hall of Fame enshrinement, thanked his wife, Kay, and kids "for allowing dad to play the game of basketball," and asked that the weekend be dedicated to the memory of the two late Johnson hoopsters.
He also gave public respect to the U.S. troops "for putting themselves in harm's way for freedom," which he reminded the audience does not come "free."
Hurley, the famous prep coach from New Jersey who runs a top-notch program despite not even having a gym at his school, followed Malone with a humorous comment after he'd been accidentally skipped in speaking order.
"I literally have been overshadowed by Karl Malone," Hurley joked.
Malone also had some chuckles after trying on his jacket only to discover that the sleeves were far too short and it had been tailored to fit too tightly. Instead of wearing the snug navy blue blazer with an embroidered Hall of Fame patch, Malone held it up to his chest during photo ops with a smile.
Afterward he laughed about his wardrobe malfunction and made a comment that brought back memories of Greg Ostertag.
"Look," he said, "I'll go on the record and tell you that's not because I'm a fat (derriere)."
In classic Malone fashion, The Mailman gave the jacket to a youngster sitting in a wheelchair next to the podium.
Malone wasn't about to let a little mishap get in the way of him enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime day.
"It's all good," he said. "The jacket is fine. I just want the patch off of it."
Representing the Dream Team, Barkley admitted members of the two U.S. gold-medal-winning squads were having fun reminiscing and rubbing shoulders.
"There's some serious, serious trash-talking going on," Barkley said.
Jerry Buss, the Lakers owner who is entering the Hall of Fame as a contributor, was not present.
The Hall of Famers will spend part of the day at a public celebration in Springfield before reconvening at Symphony Hall for the 5 p.m. ceremony, which aired live on NBA-TV.
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