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Utah Jazz: Karl Malone says he didn’t make the Hall of Fame journey alone

SHARE Utah Jazz: Karl Malone says he didn’t make the Hall of Fame journey alone

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Karl Malone had two goals for his Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech.

He wanted to keep it short, and he didn't want to cry.

Similar to the stellar field-goal percentage he had during his 19-year NBA career, The Mailman hit 50 percent of those goals.

Malone's heartfelt speech at the enshrinement ceremony in a star-studded Symphony Hall was brief — jam-packed with thanks for everybody from the Utah Jazz organization to friends from Louisiana, but only about six minutes long.

But Malone's tear ducts didn't exactly cooperate with his other desire.

Even before reaching the podium in the birthplace of basketball, the honored and overwhelmed Malone's eyes became visibly sweaty after he was introduced and watched highlights of his career.

"Charles, I lost the bet," Malone said, joking about his public crying with seated friend and fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

Malone, arguably the greatest power forward ever, had good reason for getting a bit choked up.

Not only was this the crowning achievement of The Mailman's basketball career — "the final stop on his route, the Basketball Hall of Fame," as host Ahmad Rashad put it — but the enshrining event happened exactly seven years to the date that his mom passed away.

That's why Malone called his hoops honor "bittersweet." What he wouldn't give to have the special person he credited for "every single day, every single breath I take" share in the moment.

"My mom was my mom, my dad, my hero," Malone said. "I just want to say that I'm here because of her."

Earlier Friday, Malone quietly laughed when it was suggested that two of the most influential people in his life who have passed on — his beloved Shirley Turner and former Jazz owner Larry H. Miller — might be having a Hall of Fame party in heaven.

"They sitting there talking about it," Malone said. "My mom's probably saying (to Miller), 'If I was you all them years, I would have spanked his butt or something.' "

And Malone, who had his fair share of ups and downs with Miller, is sure he knows what she would have counseled him to do had she been in Springfield on Friday.

"She'd tell me, 'Hey, boy, suck it up,' " he said. "So, I'll do that."

And he did. His from-the-heart speech was one of the highlights of the night.

Along with the tears, emotions and gratitude flowed from Malone while he addressed a supportive and loud crowd.

Malone thanked his wife, Kay, children, family, friends, the Jazz organization, teammates, opponents and Hall of Fame players for helping him earn a spot in the hoops haven after a career that saw him score the second-most points in NBA history, make 14 All-Star teams, earn two MVP trophies and set multiple league records while taking Utah to powerhouse and perennial contender status. And all of that from a guy who had to work countless hours to improve many aspects of his powerful but raw game.

Malone acknowledged he had a lot of help.

"I didn't make this journey alone," he said.

Malone reiterated how the stars had to align for him to get where he is — basketball paradise. He had to be drafted out of Louisiana Tech by the Jazz, had to be coached by Jerry Sloan and Frank Layden, had to be paired with pick-and-roll pal John Stockton.

"For me to be here tonight," he said, "everything had to be perfect."

The always productive even if not perfect Malone, whose final year with the Jazz came in 2003 after 18 seasons, said he didn't play with a motive and his career was never about himself.

It was, rather, about teammates and opponents whom he thanked for "making (him) a better person and a better player."

It was about playing hard and succeeding for those who helped him, like Miller, whom he singled out for "believing in me." He credited behind-the-scenes people. He also thanked attending former Jazz president Dave Checketts.

It was, Malone mentioned earlier in the day, about everybody from his home states of Louisiana and Utah, a place he appreciates because the people embraced him.

"It was not about me," Malone repeated. "It was about trying to do something to make everybody proud."

Malone had his critics, no doubt, but he certainly filled plenty of people with pride in many of his actions on and off the court.

Now 47 years old and six seasons removed from his pro career, the first-ballot Hall of Famer still tries to make that his mantra.

One of 10 new Hall of Fame entrants (or two if you count him being on the also-enshrined 1992 Dream Team with Stockton), Malone advised everybody in hearing range.

"I always tried to do it the right way," Malone said. "I tell all my friends and family, 'Try to live life the way you want to be remembered, try to leave life better than you found it.'

"And," he added, "what good is success if you're not willing to share it?"

Malone spoke to a crowd that experienced plenty of success. Friday's ceremony included the largest gathering of Hall of Famers in history — more than 70 — with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson in attendance. Stockton and Sloan, who preceded him into the Hall in 2009, were also there.

Other Class of 2010 inductees were Scottie Pippen, Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley Sr., the 1960 and '92 gold-medal-winning U.S. men's basketball teams, and posthumous honorees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel Pereira.

Malone used words like "honored" and "humbled" to describe how he felt to be included in that group.

The self-described country guy, sporting a sharp-looking tuxedo, was presented by fellow Louisianan and New York Knicks great Willis Reed. Malone respectfully thanked him, too.

Malone hoped the hard work and dedication it took for him to go from his small town of Summerfield, La., to Utah to the Hall of Fame, a place he called "the ultimate," was in similar honorable fashion to those previously inducted.

Though he never played to end up with them in the Hall of Fame, Malone made it there because of the way he played.

"I hope I did it the way my peers did it before me," Malone said. "I didn't do anything but try to play hard."

Karl "The Mailman" Malone

Utah Jazz (18 seasons), L.A. Lakers (1 year)

Power forward; 6-9, 256

Career highlights:

— Averaged 25.0 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 51.6 FG%

— Two-time NBA MVP

— No. 2 scorer in NBA history (36,928 points)

— Only player in league history to be named to All-NBA first team 11 times

— Played all 82 games 10 times, played in 80-plus and missed only 10 games in 18 years with Utah

— Two-time gold-medal Olympian with Team USA

— Fourth Jazzman in three years to be enshrined into Hall of Fame, following John Stockton, Jerry Sloan and Adrian DantleyHall of Fame ties

Former Jazz players and coaches enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., now include:

2010: Karl Malone (1985-2003)

2009: John Stockton (1984-2003)

2009: Jerry Sloan (1988-present)

2008: Adrian Dantley (1979-86)

1996: Gail Goodrich (1976-79)

1987: Pete Maravich (1974-80)

1982: Walt Bellamy (1974)

e-mail: jody@desnews.com