Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Former Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone, right, chats with 12-year-old Baley Brown after signing a basketball for him at Malone's car dealership in Draper on Thursday.

Fans that watched the determination, desire and drive of Karl, "the Mailman," Malone over his 19 seasons in the NBA should not be surprised to learn he still has all those qualities. What may be surprising is what he uses as outlets for expressing them.

"Family," Malone said is his primary focus these days. "I figure I spent enough time away from them during my playing days that I can try to make it up to them. I enjoy just being home and spending time with them until they say, 'Dad, get out of here, you're bugging us,' and then I'll go on a hunt or something."

Malone was in Utah last week for the grand opening of his new Karl Malone Toyota Superstore in Draper. Besides a state-of-the-art car dealership, Malone also decided to use the building as a museum for some of the sports memorabilia he has collected over the years.

The shrine includes a couple of Olympic gold medals, a pair of MVP awards, plenty of odds and ends collected both from Malone's career and that of other athletes he befriended. But the highlight certainly has to be a signed pair of sneakers and jersey from each of the original 12 Dream Teamers.

"All this stuff was kind of scattered all over the place," said Malone. "I had some in boxes, some in garages, some in Albuquerque, some in Louisiana and some here. It just kind of started as a dream of mine to put it all in one place where fans of all kinds could come and enjoy it.

"The thing about having it all here (at the dealership) is, it isn't even about people that want to come in and buy a car. People just need to come and see all this and appreciate it. I wanted this to be something that people can come and think, 'wow, that is really something.' They are welcome to come even if they aren't looking at getting a new car."

That laid-back attitude is part of the new Karl. He is completely at ease with himself and all those around him. He isn't sure if being away from the pressure of the NBA life, or just taking more time to reflect has brought upon the new outlook, but he is happy with it.

"I've come to a place in my life where I just realized that if someone gets a little sideways with you, or they criticize you — so what," he said. "It don't matter. It just don't matter. Life is too short to be upset with people all the time. The only thing that really matters is if you can deal with it yourself, not what other people think or do."

One of the people that Malone said he sometimes "got a little sideways with," was Jazz owner Larry Miller. But after Malone's retirement, and the recent health issues for Miller, he said that all that was behind him.

"I had four of the happiest, yet saddest days of my life," Malone stated. "Before I went to Alaska with my family for about a month, I spent four days with Larry. It was just me and Larry and nobody else all day from like eight in the morning 'til like 10 at night. If he needed water, I got him water. If he needed me to wipe his mouth, I wiped his mouth. It was just the two of us as people, friends.

"All that stuff that happened between us before, it just don't matter. You want to know how you can tell who your real friends are? It isn't the ones that are around when things are going good. Friends are the ones that are there when you need them most. It was both great and horrible to be there for Larry like that."

Besides family and friends, Malone is also taking more time for himself. Without all the obligations of an NBA player, he has found himself with plenty of free time to find out what he truly enjoys. One of his pleasures is not a big surprise for anyone that saw the Mailman deliver on the court.

"I still love to train," he said. "I used to think that I would do all that lifting and running and biking and stuff because it was part of my job. Now, that I don't have to do it, I still like to do it. I still like to workout for two or three hours a day. Maybe not everyday, sometimes it will only be for 30 minutes. But some days, I'll just hop on my bike and go for a 30- or 40-mile ride. I found that I really like to keep myself moving."

Malone, at 45-years-old, still looks as if he could lace up the shoes and hit the hardwoods for a routine double-double. But a second passion of his is almost a complete opposite of his physical nature.

"I write," he said. "I am writing in my journals things as I see them. I not writing it to be published, but more for me and my family. Maybe someday I will get them together and print off 20 copies or so and give them to my kids, but it is just for us."

The fact that the Mailman would like to express himself is not that unusual. He was always known for his candidness with his opinions. But some of the things Malone likes to put down on paper could be shocking.

"I like to write about the things that people think are taboo. I write about racism, politics and religion," he said. "People don't like to talk about those things, but they're out there. But one of the things is, I'm not writing this stuff to debate you. I am just putting it down according to what I think. One of the things I always write in all of my stuff is, 'through my eyes.' All of it is just according to me.

"I might not write everyday. I will sometimes go a month or more without writing, but then I'll go off for a few hours and kind of catch up. I like to write. I think I have four or five journals full of stuff now."

After spending 19 years of focusing on basketball 24/7, it is odd to hear about Karl Malone the husband, father and family man.

"My typical day begins about 5 or 5:30 in the morning. I'll get up, go train for a while and then help my kids get ready," he said. "I like to make sure that my kids get off to school. I either take them or just make sure they get there."

Even in retirement, Malone's main focus is still delivering.


E-mail: mblack@desnews.com