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(Karl Malone, left, and John Stockton played together for the Jazz for 18 seasons. Rick Egan/Tribune file photo)
Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone going strong at 50 years old

Still working out three hours a day, ex-Jazz star and Hall of Famer Karl Malone is a chiseled 256 pounds — his playing weight.

First Published Jul 23 2013 02:42 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:35 pm

Former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, who turns 50 on Wednesday, has made one concession to age.

He bought a mule.

At a glance

Karl Malone file

Hometown » Summerfield, La.

Born » July 24, 1963

Residence » Ruston, La.

Position » Power forward

Height » 6-9. Weight » 256 pounds

Career highlights » No. 2 scorer in NBA history (36,928 points). … Missed 10 games in 18 seasons with Jazz (1986-2003). … Played one season with the L.A. Lakers (2003-04). … Averaged 25.4 points and 10.2 rebounds during his career. … Two-time Most Valuable Player (1997, 1999). … Played on two gold medal-winning Olympic teams (1992, 1996). … Named to the All-NBA first team 11 times. … Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.

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During 18 seasons with the Jazz and one with the Los Angeles Lakers, Malone was known as a fitness fanatic who willed himself into the Hall of Fame.

"In 30 years," says Jazz strength coach Mark McKown," I’ve never seen anybody with the same capacity for work, the same drive or the same intensity."

Malone’s passion for fitness is matched by his love of hunting and fishing. Hiking through the thick forests and rolling hills of Louisiana and Arkansas in pursuit of game has been a favorite hobby since his mother, Shirley, first allowed him to do so.

Malone has always done the strenuous physical work his pastime requires by himself — at least until recently.

"Instead of being the athlete and walking everywhere, he got himself a mule," said Kay Malone, his wife. "… I think he’s listening to his body more. He’s preserving himself more. He wants to be able to do things with the grandkids."

Don’t misunderstand.

Malone is still a workaholic when it comes to hitting the weights or taking grueling bike rides near the family’s home in Ruston, La. Three days before his 50th birthday, in fact, Malone asked a reporter to call him back "in three hours," when he’d be finished working out.

"To be honest with you, it helps make me a better person," he said. "It takes the edge off. When I sweat, it gets me going."

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There’s another reason Malone still weighs 256 pounds — his playing weight.

One of his new projects is mentoring the Jazz’s young players — specifically power forward Derrick Favors and center Enes Kanter.

"I always had a suspicion, at some point, I’d be back involved with some organization," Malone said. "When I stepped back on the floor, I wanted to look like a coach. I wanted to look like I belonged. I thought it might help the young guys listen to me."

Yes, Malone is the same guy who has always used the fear of failure as a motivational tool.

"I don’t want to disappoint my family, my real fans or myself," he said. "… I’ve always wanted to prove something to Karl Malone and I still do."

With Kanter sidelined because of offseason shoulder surgery, Malone’s work with Favors has gotten favorable reviews. McKown watched one of their sessions, along with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who is now a senior adviser with the team.

"Coach Sloan looked at me and smiled," McKown recalled. "He said, ‘I don’t think anybody could give this guy a better workout.’ … Karl was teaching and Derrick was responding. It was way cool."

Oddly, Malone and the Jazz were estranged for years. The animosity came into sharp focus 18 months ago, when a public war of words erupted between CEO Greg Miller and the two-time Most Valuable Player.

"Five years ago, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell I would be involved in the Jazz organization," Malone said. "I had my stinger out and they had their stingers out."

The hard feelings, however, have healed and Malone is happily working with Favors.

"The skill set he’s got is absolutely unbelievable," Malone said.

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