Last week I wrote about the surprise passing of NBA legend Daryl Dawkins, AKA "Chocolate Thunder". Today, I come bearing more bad news on the NBA legend front.
As most of you know by now, Moses Malone unexpectedly passed away yesterday at the age of 60. This one hit me just as hard as Daryl Dawkins. I even mentioned Moses Malone in my article about Dawkins. If you remember, Malone was who the 76ers traded Dawkins for, and they won the title that year. Moses Malone was the first professional basketball player to make the jump from high school to the pros. He led his high school team to two straight, undefeated championship seasons. He signed to play at the University of Maryland, but gave up his college career when he was drafted in the third round by the Utah Stars of the ABA. He signed a five year contract, but spent only three seasons in the ABA. The Utah Stars folded after his rookie season and he caught on with the St. Louis Spirits for the next two years. He put up pretty good numbers while playing in the ABA, averaging 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds a game. When the ABA and NBA merged, Malone was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers, but never played a regular season game for them. He was traded to the Buffalo Braves, but only played two games with the team. He finally found a semi permanent home after being traded to the Houston Rockets.
During Moses Malone's first full season in the NBA, he put up decent numbers again. Malone averaged 13 points a game, but where he shined was rebounding, and more specifically, offensive rebounding. He finished third in the league in total rebounding at 13 a game, but he set a new offensive rebounding record, grabbing 437 total offensive boards. He would later break that record. He was also a stalwart on the defensive side of the court, blocking almost three shots a game. Malone led the Rockets to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Rockets were once in the East, only to lose to his eventual team, the 76ers in six games. During that playoff, Malone set a record with 15 offensive rebounds in one game. The 78-79 season was peak Moses Malone. He averaged 24 points and 17 rebounds a game on his way to winning the league MVP at the tender age of 23. This was the season he broke his own offensive rebounding record, grabbing 587 of them. Once again though, the Rockets were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals, this time by the Boston Celtics. Malone and the Rockets couldn't seem to get over the hump. The Rockets finally made the NBA Finals in 1981, Malone coming off another MVP season, but they were beat by the Sonics.
During the 1983 season, Malone was traded to the 76ers for Daryl Dawkins, as I mentioned before. New ownership wanted new players and Malone fit in perfectly with what the 76ers wanted to do. During the 83 season, Malone led the league in rebounding for the third straight season, collecting 15 boards a game. He also averaged 25 points per game as well. During the 83 playoffs, the 76ers only lost one game and swept the Lakers in the Finals. Malone won NBA Finals MVP and got his first, and only, NBA title. A couple more seasons and a couple more runs in the playoffs with the 76ers followed, but in the 85-86 season, the 76ers traded Malone to the Washington Bullets. His first season with the Bullets had Malone making the All Star team for the tenth consecutive season and putting up 24 points and 11 rebounds. Ultimately though, despite Malone's big numbers, the Bullets were swept in the first round by the Pistons. The same thing happened the very next season. Malone put up big numbers, but the Bullets were swept again by the Pistons in the first round.
Moses Malone played for three more teams, the Buck, Spurs and the Hawks. He put up okay numbers, but he was starting to get hurt more and he played a lot of basketball by this time in his life. He was even brought back by the 76ers to help tutor Shawn Bradley. He had a long, successful NBA career. He was such a good rebounder, he was dubbed "Chairman of the Boards" by his fellow players.
What drew me to Moses Malone was his tenacity and love for basketball. Sure, he was a great scorer, but he seemed to love playing defense and his rebounding is unmatched. He took more pride in rebounding than anything else. As a kid, I wanted to be Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley. As a I got older, into my twenties, I studied players like Daryl Dawkins and Moses Malone, and that's who I try to model my game after. Yes, I like to put the ball in the hoop, but I'd rather start a fast break with a defensive rebound, or get an offensive rebound for a put back. That's more satisfying for me.
It's a shame that Moses Malone passed away yesterday. In the past two weeks, we've lost two basketball legends that a lot of my generation, the Millenials, have little to no knowledge of. That's depressing to me. Instead of watching Blake Griffin or Kevin Love and saying that they're some of the best big men rebounders(they are not), go watch old games of Moses Malone. He's the best rebounder of all time. You will be missed "Chairman of the Boards". I hope you and Daryl Dawkins are playing one on one wherever you are now.
Rest in Peace.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and co-host of the X Millennial Man podcast. Follow him on twitter @tykulik.