The latest edition of Legends of the Mailman began Sunday morning, when Karl Malone searched out his mother in a nearby hotel room after a restful night and informed her that he would be the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game.
Just like that, Malone delivered again."I'm going to get it," Malone had told his mother, Shirley Malone Turner.
Malone was not owning up to any pregame dreams this time, but the MVP performance was apparently in the same category as his playoff guarantees last spring - of not having to return to Portland for a deciding Game 5 in the in the first round, and of forcing a Game 7 against the Lakers.
In a made-for-Malone game, a track meet with his personal point guard running the offense, Malone did his usual thing. "Karl is incredible . . . to be that strong and that fast; he should be outlawed," said Portland's Clyde Drexler, a fair athlete himself.
"People now gotta know the guy's a monster player," said Philadelphia's Charles Barkley.
Afterward, Malone was offering to split his MVP award - which carries no money, just a trophy - with Jazz teammate John Stockton. Any idea that Stockton was overlooking other players and feeding the Mailman in a Jazz MVP quest, though, is misguided. Of Stockton's 17 assists, only five went to Malone - and Malone scored seven baskets from other sources, mostly offensive rebounds.
"Karl earned it on his own," said Stockton.
Still, Stockton had Malone's interests in mind, as always. Frequently during the game, he winked at Malone - interpreted by Malone to mean, "You're one step closer." In the fourth quarter, he told the Mailman, "OK, big guy, it's yours."
Reminded by Stockton-Malone of his own relationship with missing Laker teammate Magic Johnson, James Worthy said, "They know each other's games, and that makes all the difference in the world."
Malone actually had a shot at MVP in last February's All-Star Game, until Michael Jordan went wild on his homecourt in the fourth quarter. His two-year totals are 59 minutes, 50 points and 19 rebounds.
Last season, the All-Star performances seemed to carry him through the second half of the season; he's needed another lift lately, because of the huge Jazz workload. "The All-Star Game gave me a burst of energy," noted Malone. "I hope the same thing happens; the team and a lot of players were struggling before the break."
The Jazz go back to practice tonight, so Malone will have had little more than 24 hours to celebrate his award. About 100 people greeted him at Salt Lake International Airport when the Jazz delegation arrived shortly after midnight. "I may be from the country," Malone had said in Houston, "but for one day I'm king of the city."
Malone - 7 1/2
John Stockton - 2
Dale Ellis - 1
Voters represented CBS-TV, ABC Radio, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Associated Press, United Press International, Dallas Morning News, Orange County Register, Detroit News, Houston Post, Houston Chronicle.