NBA labor: Latest lockout not nearly as much fun as Mailman's rants from 1998

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 11:17 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Tired of reading and hearing about this NBA lockout, which has now mired on for 110 days — or about as long as one of Karl Malone's rambling rants used to last?

If so, you're temporarily in luck.

This article is about the current lockout's daddy (a.k.a. the 1998-99 labor mess that wiped out 32 games and denied Utah Jazz fans extra opportunities to boo referee Dick Bavetta).

Thirteen years later, Jazz faithful only need to take a quick stroll through the archives to learn they'd rather history not repeat itself.

Not just because the season was shortened to a brutal 50 games in under three months, which took a heavy toll on aging Jazz legs.

It was those infamous rants delivered by the Mailman's mouth the last time the NBA padlocked arenas that fans might not want to relive.

But they did make for interesting water-cooler discussions (and just imagine the fun tweeters would've had).

In November of 1998, a disgruntled Malone, filling an empty schedule by being a talk-show host, sent shock waves through the air on his Los Angeles radio program by making this statement:

"I am tired of the posturing and jabbering back and forth, and I will go out on a limb and say, when the lockout is over with, I will make a demand to be traded. I will say it right now, I have played my last game in Salt Lake City, and it's time for Karl to move on."

Malone blamed Utah media — or "goons" and "cowards," as he called 'em — for making him want to leave.

"I will never, ever do another interview in Salt Lake City," Malone said, several hundred interviews in Salt Lake City ago.

But The Mailman, who skipped out on a team meeting, was also feeling neglected by his boss, the late Larry H. Miller. (It apparently didn't make sense to Malone that he couldn't speak with the Jazz owner despite an NBA-wide gag order.)

"My phone number, he have it," Malone said. "He live two blocks from me, and I can't get a call from him? Now you tell me, when you talk about respect, you tell me I got it."

Less than a week later, he had changed his tune. "Karl Malone the person will not change," he told TV/radio personality Phil Riesen, "but the business person has done a 360-degree turn."

Or something like that.

Malone's dilemma — all the trade hubbub, not the math problem — wasn't the only drama that fall.

After learning that the first two weeks of the season had been scrapped — with even more cancellations ahead — John Stockton was quoted as saying, "It's a black eye for the game of basketball."

Basketball players then gave Stockton and teammate Jeff Hornacek another metaphorical black eye during a union meeting in Las Vegas.

The Jazz guards, as the Deseret News reported in '98, "were shouted down when they tried to move the discussion from militant speeches to a dialogue on what percentage of revenues the players could live with."

Other interesting lockout moments involving the Jazz:

Trying to drum up publicity (and a political campaign?) for his client, agent Dwight Manley said this of Malone in '98: "He's the perfect candidate for governor. He's the common people's man."

Malone, who's yet to appear on a non-basketball ballot, apparently did a 360 on his ex-agent's comments.

Malone predicted that Miller would give a teary speech, something the Jazz owner, a NBA negotiating committee member, followed through on. "That's how he got me to sign my last contract," an AP story quoted Malone as telling players.

Speaking of avid hunters — and people who you might rather not have political power — then-Jazz center Greg Ostertag spent time in the lockout on the lookout for bambi. The deer hunter also admitted, "I don't know anything about what's going on with (the lockout)."

Ex-Jazz coach Jerry Sloan set a record for "Quietest Moment Ever in a school assembly," according to a column by Doug Robinson. While Jazz officials talked to students at Evergreen Junior High as a community outreach gesture during the down time, Sloan stopped after a few sentences. Turned out, the noise in the gym wasn't coming from him. "If you want me to talk," he said, "you'll have to be quiet because I can't talk while you're talking." So startled by Sloan, some of the kids still haven't resumed talking.

Jazz-produced HOMECOURT magazine for October 1998 featured stories about Starzz players Margo Dydek and Wendy Palmer, Hot Rod Hundley, Elgin Baylor, Frank Layden and the team's school reading program but nothing about Stockton, Malone or other players due to restrictions. Robinson's comparison: "Imagine Bon Appetit magazine without any mention of food."

Or like a lockout story without any mention of David Stern, BRI or luxury tax. Then again, wasn't it nice?

Email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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