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Utah Jazz: Karl Malone says he didn't make the Hall of Fame journey alone

Published: Friday, Aug. 13 2010 7:21 p.m. MDT

2010 basketball Hall of Fame inductees, including players from the 1992 U.S. Olympics Dream Team, at center from left, Magic Johnson, David Robinson and Larry Bird, pose at the Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., Friday.

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Karl Malone had two goals for his Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

He wanted to keep it short, and he didn't want to cry.

Similar to the stellar field-goal percentage he had during his 19-year NBA career, The Mailman hit 50 percent of those goals.

Malone's heartfelt speech at the enshrinement ceremony in a star-studded Symphony Hall was brief — jam-packed with thanks for everybody from the Utah Jazz organization to friends from Louisiana, but only about six minutes long.

But Malone's tear ducts didn't exactly cooperate with his other desire.

Even before reaching the podium in the birthplace of basketball, the honored and overwhelmed Malone's eyes became visibly sweaty after he was introduced and watched highlights of his career.

"Charles, I lost the bet," Malone said, joking about his public crying with seated friend and fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

Malone, arguably the greatest power forward ever, had good reason for getting a bit choked up.

Not only was this the crowning achievement of The Mailman's basketball career — "the final stop on his route, the Basketball Hall of Fame," as host Ahmad Rashad put it — but the enshrining event happened exactly seven years to the date that his mom passed away.

That's why Malone called his hoops honor "bittersweet." What he wouldn't give to have the special person he credited for "every single day, every single breath I take" share in the moment.

"My mom was my mom, my dad, my hero," Malone said. "I just want to say that I'm here because of her."

Earlier Friday, Malone quietly laughed when it was suggested that two of the most influential people in his life who have passed on — his beloved Shirley Turner and former Jazz owner Larry H. Miller — might be having a Hall of Fame party in heaven.

"They sitting there talking about it," Malone said. "My mom's probably saying (to Miller), 'If I was you all them years, I would have spanked his butt or something.' "

And Malone, who had his fair share of ups and downs with Miller, is sure he knows what she would have counseled him to do had she been in Springfield on Friday.

"She'd tell me, 'Hey, boy, suck it up,' " he said. "So, I'll do that."

And he did. His from-the-heart speech was one of the highlights of the night.

Along with the tears, emotions and gratitude flowed from Malone while he addressed a supportive and loud crowd.

Malone thanked his wife, Kay, children, family, friends, the Jazz organization, teammates, opponents and Hall of Fame players for helping him earn a spot in the hoops haven after a career that saw him score the second-most points in NBA history, make 14 All-Star teams, earn two MVP trophies and set multiple league records while taking Utah to powerhouse and perennial contender status. And all of that from a guy who had to work countless hours to improve many aspects of his powerful but raw game.

Malone acknowledged he had a lot of help.

"I didn't make this journey alone," he said.

Malone reiterated how the stars had to align for him to get where he is — basketball paradise. He had to be drafted out of Louisiana Tech by the Jazz, had to be coached by Jerry Sloan and Frank Layden, had to be paired with pick-and-roll pal John Stockton.

"For me to be here tonight," he said, "everything had to be perfect."

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