Immortalizing the Mailman: Larger than life
In larger-than-life bronze, John Stockton made one final assist to his former teammate, Karl Malone.
In a bit of foresight, sculptor Brian Challis, who designed the statue of John Stockton that stands on the Delta Center plaza, cut off the clay molding of the ball he used in Stockton's statue and glued it to Malone's hand.
"The way I see it, it's one last Stockton to Malone," Challis said.
Malone's statue will be unveiled today at 4:30 p.m. in one of the many events surrounding the retiring of the Jazz great's jersey tonight against Washington. Malone, who will also have a local street named after him, will have his jersey, No. 32, retired at halftime.
Malone's jersey will join those of coach Frank Layden (No. 1), Darrell Griffith (35), Pete Maravich (7), Mark Eaton (53), Jeff Hornacek (14), and Stockton (12) in the rafters.
"The Mailman" was drafted by the Jazz out of Louisiana Tech in 1985 with the 13th overall pick. He averaged 25.4 points and 10.1 rebounds in 1,434 games over 18 seasons with the Jazz. Malone joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2003-04 and played in 42 games before retiring on Feb. 13, 2005.
He is Utah's all-time leader in points (36,377), minutes played (53,479), field goals made (13,335) and attempted (25,810), free throws made (9,622) and attempted (12,965), and rebounds (14,601). He scored a career-high 61 points (21-for-26 FGs, 19-for-19 FTs) against Milwaukee on Jan. 27, 1990.
"You can't find a player alive today who plays the way he did every night," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "There was such a toughness about him. He'd be in the locker room by 4 p.m., getting ready for a game to make sure he got the best out of himself. We knocked heads sometimes, but it was because we both just wanted to win."
Malone's statue and jersey will give the legend a visible presence at the Delta Center, but they're unnecessary reminders of his achievements for today's players, who already play in his shadow.
"You can't live up to him," Utah's Carlos Boozer said. "He was [6-foot-9] going up against a lot of 7-footers, but no one was stronger than he was. What he did at that position was incredible. I know he didn't win a title, but it wasn't because he didn't do his job."
Challis' sculpture shows Malone in one of his classic moves, going to the hoop with the ball in his right hand, right knee cocked and mouth slightly open. The photo Challis used as a model was one of six choices Jazz owner Larry H. Miller gave him. It's almost an exact replica, with a little liberty taken.
"When Malone goes in for a power move, he opens his mouth and wrinkles his brow and looks mean," Challis said. "I softened that look a bit because when he's going up, he doesn't really look like himself because he's so stressed. It's his passion that comes through."
Given a choice of any of Malone's skills, Utah's Andrei Kirilenko said being able to tap into that kind of desire is what he'd most like to have when he's older.
"Even in his last games, the way he ran the floor was amazing," Kirilenko said. "No one wanted to win as much as he did. Even at 40 years old, he would dive on the floor for balls and fight for rebounds. For me as a player, that was exciting to see."
At 15 feet, Malone's statue will loom over Stockton's, which is just eight feet high. Both are 1 1/2 times life-size, but Malone's is so much larger because he's going to the basket, whereas Stockton is crouching.
The statues stand on two large bronze plaques that are in the shape of the yin and yang circles.
"Yin and yang are opposite forces, but they form a perfect circle," Challis said. "Stockton and Malone are opposite in many ways, but they do really go together."
4:30 p.m. - STATUE UNVEILED AT THE DELTA CENTER
6:30 p.m. - MALONE GUEST ON KJZZ PREGAME SHOW
7 p.m. - WIZARDS AT JAZZ, KJZZ
HALFTIME - JERSEY RETIRED
POSTGAME - KJZZ HIGHLIGHT SHOW OF HIS CAREER