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Utah Jazz legend 'one of the greatest'

Published April 5, 2010 10:35 pm

Malone is selected in first year of eligibility.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a toddler, Karl Malone spent many hot, humid summer nights outside his family's home in impoverished Summerfield, La., throwing a ball through a hoop his mother made with her arms.

Shirley Turner would stand for hours, her son once recalled, and play the game until darkness, an evening thunderstorm or his fatigue ended the fun.

As it turned out, the woman who everyone in Summerfield including her children called "Miss Shirley" helped launch a Hall of Fame career with those early lessons

On Monday, in his first year of eligibility, Karl Malone was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Asked about his brother's accomplishment, Danny Malone said: "I am so excited, maybe more excited than he is. And I'm so very proud of him.

"I know he's my brother, but it's still amazing to me how much work and effort and sacrifice he put in to get there.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of NBA players, but only a few ever get to this level. What else can I say, except this is the pinnacle?"

At ceremonies on Aug. 13 in Springfield, Mass., Malone will join Adrian Dantley, John Stockton and Jerry Sloan as the fourth Utah Jazz-connected player or coach to be enshrined in the past three years.

Told of Malone's election, Stockton said: "I don't think it surprised anyone. But that kind of fits in with what happened his whole career.

"He was such a great player that what he did every night was taken for granted, a little bit. Everybody just expected it because of his greatness. ... It's a well-deserved honor."

During an 18-year career with the Utah Jazz, Malone was a two-time Most Valuable Player and a 14-time All-Star.

Although the Jazz have never won a championship, Malone helped them reach back-to-back NBA Finals, in which Utah lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998.

Malone retired after the 2003-04 season as the No. 2 scorer in league history, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Attempts to contact Malone for this story were unsuccessful. ESPN reported he was traveling with his family, which is why Malone did not attend the news conference in Indianapolis announcing the newest Hall of Fame class.

Prior to Monday's practice, however, current Jazz star Deron Williams said: "He was one of the greatest to ever play the game. It's well-deserved."

In a statement issued by the team, Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller offered Malone his "heartfelt congratulations" for membership in the Class of 2010.

"Karl was such a large part of our success over the years and embodies everything our organization stands for in terms of hard work and giving his all each and every day," Miller said. "The people of Utah should be very proud to have four Hall of Fame inductees over a span of the last three years."

Team president Randy Rigby added, "Karl's contributions to the Jazz have been endless and we are proud that he has been given this honor, which he so richly deserves."

Actually, Malone will be a double-inductee in August.

Along with Stockton, he was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, which won the gold medal in Barcelona. The so-called Dream Team will also be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this summer.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him at the ceremony." Stockton said. "I'm excited my buddy will be there."

Along with his statistics, one of Malone's most amazing accomplishments was his durability.

In his 18 years with Utah, he missed only 10 games because of injury or suspension. He never missed more than two games in any season. "I saw him with his foot in a 5-gallon bucket [and] play when his ankle was almost as big as the bucket," coach Jerry Sloan said. "Not a lot of guys want to play that way. They want to go out and take time off, but he didn't want to miss."

On March 23, 2006, the Jazz retired Malone's jersey and unveiled a statue of him outside EnergySolutions Arena. A few weeks before those ceremonies, Malone was asked what the accolades meant.

"I wasn't born to play basketball," he said. "[But] I never shied away from work. And I was lucky. I was fortunate with injuries and I tried my butt off. That's what it says."

Along with Malone and the 1992 Dream Team, this year's Hall of Fame inductees include Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, women's star Cynthia Cooper, New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley Sr., ex-Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen, the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, former NBA stars Dennis Johnson and Gus Johnson and Brazil's Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira.

"The Class of 2010 represents everything that is great about the game of basketball," said Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Hall of Fame Board.

"From the two gold medal-winning Olympic teams, to a high school coach who dedicated his life to the game, to a diverse group of individuals who have excelled as collegians, professionals and great contributors to our sport, this group will be known as one of the great classes in history."

To be elected to the Hall of Fame, finalists needed 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee.

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1992 'Dream Team' will be honored

John Stockton and Karl Malone will be inducted into the hall of fame as part of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.

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