Utah Jazz Hall of Famer Karl Malone holds court before his All-Star event
Gerald Herbert, AP
NEW ORLEANS — The NBA should consider a new annual event for All-Star weekend.
It might last longer than the Slam Dunk Contest and Skills Challenge combined, but a Karl Malone Roundtable would be entertaining.
A day before participating in the Shooting Stars Challenge, the Mailman held a shoot-the-bull session that provided some vintage Malone material during Friday’s All-Star media availability period.
Here are some highlights:
— Earlier this week, LeBron James admitted he’d put himself on an NBA version of Mount Rushmore. With that in mind, it was no surprise that reporters asked All-Star weekend participants about the all-time greats they’d put in a top-four monument.
Malone scoffed at the idea, though.
“I ain’t on Mount Rushmore. I don’t have anybody up there,” Malone said. “If there ain’t some hunting and fishing, I have no desire to be up there.”
— Speaking of James, Malone was asked to chime in on the King’s decision to avoid the Slam Dunk Contest throughout his illustrious NBA career.
“As my mom would say, my grandpa would say, we’re trying to beat the fart out of a dead mule,” Malone said. “He ain’t coming.”
And that’s just fine with Malone.
“If the only thing we get out of LeBron is (dunks) before games and after practice, hell, embrace it and enjoy,” Malone said. “But let’s embrace and support the kids who’s in it, you know?”
— At one point, Malone was asked a question that apparently was about how music and basketball are related in terms of the All-Star game being in New Orleans. (Huh? It’s possible something was lost in translation with the international reporter.)
Malone’s response wandered into an interesting (and rambling) admission about his musical tastes.
“Jazz and blues. That’s Louisiana. That’s the South,” he said. “I don’t see the comparison. But I like it all. I listen to country, Nickelback. I listen to all of it.”
— Jazz fans might not have liked it, but you have to admire the moxie of a reporter who dared ask Malone this question: Is Tim Duncan the best power forward in history?
“Forget the power forward position, I think he’s one of the best players to ever play the game,” Malone said. “Tim Duncan is one of the best players to ever play the game — to hell with the power forward position, because he plays center and everything. I love to watch him play.”
His love isn’t just for Duncan, either.
“I absolutely love watching San Antonio play. Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) reminds me so much of coach (Jerry) Sloan,” he said. “Tony (Parker) and Tim and those guys just play. Even the young guys come in, they just play. They don’t talk. They just play. I love their squad.”
— OK then, another reporter asked, who was the best power forward in the history of the NBA?
— Malone got a chance to speak about another person he admires when asked, "What made Jerry Sloan so special, such a winner?"
“No. 1, he played the game. He played hurt. He played injured. He didn’t use any excuses, he just played the game,” Malone said. “The first day I met him, he had some substance to him with me because he played the game.”
Malone then talked about Sloan’s banner-raising honor that took place on Jan. 31 and added, “He’s just not only a great coach, but he’s a special person, too.”
Malone loved playing for the Jazz from 1985-2003, but, understandably, his stint with the U.S. men's Olympic team was a special moment, especially in 1992. If you'll recall, that was the year when NBA stars Malone, John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin teamed up to win gold in Barcelona. He flashed a big grin while chatting about that squad.
"That was the original Dream Team. You guys can debate all you want to who would win (against other Dream Teams)," he said. "It’s a fun debate. But c'mon, really?"
Malone was then asked to expound on being part of that team.
"I would never pay to play in a game, but if I was going to ever pay money to be in that game or playing in practice, I would have paid a little bit," he said. "It was the most unbelievable experience ever."
The best part, he added, was behind closed doors.
"The practices we had and the games we had, if somebody had the rights to (broadcast) that and charged ticket prices," he said, pondering the possibilities. "The coaches would throw the ball up, Michael (Jordan) was the captain on one team, Magic on the other."
— How would you describe John Stockton?
“The best,” Malone said, smiling. “The best that ever did it.”
Fittingly, the moderator ended the interview session with that response.
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