On the night Karl Malone was drafted into the NBA, he was seen on national television with tears running down his face. Tears of joy and gratitude to his mother for her sacrifices.

And, as we learn in Fox Sports Net's "Beyond the Glory," tears of frustration — because he was headed for Utah and not Dallas.

"My first reaction when I got drafted was . . . I'm going to Utah? I don't want to go to Utah,' " Malone says in the weekly sports interview show, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on cable's Fox Sports Rocky Mountain.

That echoed his feelings when he first came to Utah as a senior in high school, playing on an AAU team from his native Louisiana in a tournament in Provo. "I remember calling my mom and saying, 'Mom, I'm in Utah. I don't know where this place is, but I never want to come here again in my life.' "

Not that Malone or "Beyond the Glory" bashes the Beehive State. The Mailman's comments are used ironically, given the success and happiness he says he's found in Utah.

The "Beyond the Glory" installment (which subsequently airs on Fox Sports throughout the coming week; see A6) uses photos, file footage and interviews to tell the story of Malone's life, from his impoverished childhood in rural Louisiana, where he slopped the hogs when he wasn't riding them bareback, to his high school and college days to the NBA and Utah. It recounts his personal and professional high and low points — some so familiar they're part of Utah folklore and others less well-known.

Among those interviewed are his wife, Kay; his mother, Shirley; his brother, Terry; former Jazz coach Frank Layden; current Jazz coach Jerry Sloan; team owner Larry H. Miller, teammates Bryon Russell, Jeff Hornacek, John Stockton and Olden Polynice; and sportscaster Hot Rod Hundley.

What emerges is a portrait of a complicated man, driven to succeed and, at this point in his life, unafraid to laugh at himself. As when he recounts arriving in Utah on the 24th of July and riding on the Jazz float in the Pioneer Day parade.

"I honestly thought they was having this big parade just for me," Malone says. "I'm talking about thousands and thousands of people. I thought, 'I did come to the right place.' "

Malone speaks candidly about some things he has seldom addressed at length before, including:

His father's suicide. "Seven years ago is when I finally forgave my dad and came to terms with it," he says.

The children he fathered when he was a teenager, twins Cheryl and Daryl Ford. Malone doesn't try to excuse his abandonment of the Fords, saying, "Everybody makes mistakes. . . . It's about trying to make things right, growing up, being responsible." (Malone's wife, however, says that it's her understanding that it was the twins' grandparents who agreed that Karl and his former girlfriend would go their separate ways.)

And the twins are interviewed at some length — appearing a bit reluctant and ambivalent. "I mean, I forgive, but I'm not going to forget that. That hurts a child," Cheryl says.

But Daryl adds that Malone is "getting there" as a father, and Malone himself says he and the twins have become "really close" in recent years.

Being an African-American athlete in predominantly white Utah, even being called an "Uncle Tom" by fellow NBA player Derrick Coleman. "What do you want me to do, (say) 'I don't like Utah anymore? I have to move where my people are at?' That's a shallow, narrow-minded train of thought," Malone says. Some of the stories will be less familiar to the national Fox Sports Net audience than to local viewers — the origin of the nickname "Mailman," his early struggles in the NBA, his love for hunting and fishing, his dream of being a trucker, his NRA membership, his threats to leave Utah, his first meeting with his future wife (who thought he was the first black mailman in Utah).

And Malone's mistakes, like his opposition to an HIV-infected Magic Johnson's return to the NBA. "I didn't know a lot of the information on it," he says. "But I did say what I said. I'm not going to change that."

He also doesn't offer excuses for his physical play.

"You know what you gonna get when I step out there. You gonna hit me and I'm gonna hit you," he says. "And if I'm stronger than you are, you probably going to get hurt a lot worse than I do. That's the way it is."

"Beyond the Glory" also offers a glimpse of Malone the husband and father, the philanthropist and charity worker, the fitness trainer, the role model.

View Comments

"I think he's helped to make a large part of the community color-blind," Miller says.

And the 38-year-old NBA all-star acknowledges his career is winding down and he's looking ahead.

"My vision of the future is to be the best husband and father I can be until I die," he says. "And have a great time."


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.