Moses Malone has always been overlooked. He didn’t win biggest with the frequency of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, boast the preternatural grace of Hakeem Olajuwon, or chase the spotlight like Shaquille O’Neal. It’s for those reasons – ones mostly unfair and essentially out of his control – that the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers legend is routinely left on the outside looking in of discussions among casual fans of the best centers basketball has ever seen.
But make no mistake: Malone’s resumé stacks up well to the consensus greats, especially when it comes to individual accolades and production. He was a three-time MVP, and the last award-winner to play on a team that won less than 50 games. He was a 12-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA First Team member, and was named to the Second Team on four occasions, too. Malone is the league’s all-time leading offensive rebounder – by well over 2,500 boards. From 1979-80 to 1987-88, he averaged 25.5 points and 14.1 rebounds per game, tandem scoring and rebounding thresholds that no player since has accomplished in a single season.
Then there’s this: It was Malone, not the famed Julius Erving, who won Finals MVP during Philadelphia’s 1983 title run. And it was the offseason arrival of Malone that spurred those 1983 Sixers to perhaps the most underrated regular season in league history, not to mention a record 12-1 romp through the playoffs en route to a championship over Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and the Lakers.
There’s absolutely no silver lining to be gleaned from the 60-year-old’s death on Sunday morning. It’s a shocking turn of events, and one that’s left the NBA world deeply disturbed. Malone, after all, was scheduled to play in a charity golf tournament today, was seen by TNT’s David Aldridge working out at a hotel gym less than 48 hours ago, and even photobombed the NBA TV cameras during the Hall-of-Fame induction ceremonies on Friday evening.
In this time of mourning, though, it’s only fitting to consider not just Malone the man, but also the player – and he was as good a center as he was a human being.
Below, the NBA community remembers the “Chairman of the Boards.”
A statement from the Sixers, with whom Malone played from 1982-83 to 1985-86:
“It is with a deep sense of sadness that the Sixers family mourns the sudden loss of Moses Malone. It is difficult to express what his contributions to this organization – both as a friend and player – have meant to us, the city of Philadelphia and his faithful fans. Moses holds a special place in our hearts and will forever be remembered as a genuine icon and pillar of the most storied era in the history of Philadelphia 76ers basketball. No one person has ever conveyed more with so few words – including three of the most iconic in this city’s history. His generosity, towering personality and incomparable sense of humor will truly be missed. We will keep his family in our thoughts and prayers and as we are once again reminded of the preciousness of life.”
Malone kicked off the Rockets’ “Legacy of Bigs” when he joined the team in 1976-77:
Other teams, some of which he played for, also remembered Malone:
Players young and old flocked to social media to express mourning, too.
Our thoughts are with Malone’s family and friends during this difficult time. Rest in peace, Moses.