Moses Malone died in his sleep early this morning in Norfolk, VA. He was 60.
Malone was among the first players to go from high school straight to the pros. He was drafted by the Utah Stars and signed a seven-year, $3 million contract (with most of the money being deferred) in 1974. However, Malone would only play in the ABA for two years before the 1976 NBA-ABA merger.
At the time of the merger, Malone’s rights were held by the New Orleans Jazz, who gave them up in exchange for their 1977 first round pick. (This is criminal in retrospect. Jazz at the time were trying to surround Pete Maravich with more talent, and 1976-77 was the Pistol’s best season—he averaged 31.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists—before his rapid descent into injury the following year under a heavy workload.) Without his rights tied up by an NBA team, Malone entered the special draft for ABA players, where he was taken by Portland. But the Blazers had also acquired Maurice Lucas, and traded Malone to the Buffalo Braves for a first round pick. The team had a young Bob McAdoo and a 20-year-old Adrian Dantley, but instead of letting that core grow with Moses, the Braves (AKA, the Clippers) traded him after two games for two future firsts. At the end of his gauntlet with the cursed and the stupid, Malone wound up in Houston.
Within three seasons, in 1979, Malone won his first MVP. Two years later, he carried the Rockets to the 1981 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Celtics. The following year, he won another MVP before being traded to Philadelphia. That first season, his Fo Fo Fo Sixers won the title, dropping just one game in the postseason. Imagine this happening today. A sitting MVP, one year removed from a Finals appearance, is traded in his prime, wins another MVP, and then guarantees his new team will go undefeated to the ‘chip. It’s unthinkable. Fo Fo Fo is the greatest NBA prediction.
Moses also tackled the shit out of Larry Bird in Bird’s famous “fight” with Dr. J:
Malone was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
Photo Credit: AP Images