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Karl Malone

July 14, 2003

Making headlines in the NBA this week (Kobe Bryant's rape accusation notwithstanding) were the signings of NBA veterans Gary Payton and Karl Malone by the Los Angeles Lakers. Both Payton and Malone took less money to sign with Los Angeles than they could've made elsewhere.

From a star power standpoint, the Lakers look intimidating. Shaq, Kobe, Payton AND Malone. Wow. Yet at the same time, I have more reason to cheer against the Lakers than ever before.

Karl Malone
Karl Malone: 36,000+ points, 0 championships.

The reason? Karl Malone. Now there's no questioning Malone's on-the-court ability. He's a two-time league MVP (though he only deserved one of those awards), he's a member of the NBA's "50 Greatest Players" list (which is due for an update about now), and he could potentially pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the #1 all-time spot on the NBA scoring list.

So why would I cheer against Malone? Simple: he was a rude asshole to me. And he was also a rude asshole to some friends of mine in a vastly different setting.

In October of 1997, the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz played a pre-season NBA game at Roberts Stadium in Evansville, Indiana. The Jazz were fresh off an NBA Western Conference championship, while the Pacers were lead by first-year coach Larry Bird.

The game itself was exciting. Despite not having the services of an injured John Stockton, the Jazz lead for most of the way But Indiana charged back in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to the efforts of Reggie Miller. Miller nailed a three with just seconds to go in the game, giving the Pacers a narrow victory.

Of course, it was an exhibition game, so the results didn't count for jack. But a win is a win.

I was covering the game for WUEV radio, where I worked as the sports director. I talked with Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan (who's an Evansville grad), no problem. I talked with Bird (in a group interview session), and again no problem. So then I ventured into the Jazz locker room to talk with Karl Malone. Unfortunately, Malone decided to be rude to me. I asked him a simple question about his thoughts on the upcoming season, and he shot back with: "I don't know, holmes. We'll just have to wait and see." He then turned away and wouldn't answer any more questions. What a dick.

Karl Malone
The Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays (or in the playoffs).
And rest assured that this wasn't an isolated incident. My friends Brook Gardiner and Bob Lonergan told me stories about going to the Karl Malone basketball camp when they were kids. From what they said, Malone was mean to the children, acting more like a pompous asshole (allowing only Louisiana Tech and Utah Jazz logos to be worn) and a premadonna than as a role-model or mentor.

So it was with much happiness that I watched as Michael Jordan and the Bulls beat the Jazz for a second straight NBA Finals in early 1998. From there Father Time finally caught up with the aging Utah squad. The Jazz never again made it out of the Western Conference, and finally the wheels fell off with their unceremonial dumping in the first round of the 2003 playoffs.

And now Malone is a member of the Lakers. And here I am, a San Antonio Spurs fan. The Spurs and Lakers have had some great playoff matchups in years past. But this upcoming year, more than ever, I want to see the Spurs knock out the Lakers. I want Malone to retire without a ring, making all his individual stats and accomplishments hollow. I want a Los Angeles shutdown.

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