A product of the school of hard knocks, the man who would come to be known to NBA fans across the world as Moses Malone was one of those who would come to redefine the sport through his displays of guts, determination, and sheer hard work.
Growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Petersburg, Virginia, the future Hall of Famer honed his game in a manner some would describe as relentless, shunning distractions in favor of working on his fundamentals on a basketball court well into the night, with the only light coming from a distant street lamp.
In a sport where every possession counts, Moses Malone would become known for his rebounding prowess. For a skill where mere microseconds exist between thought and action, Malone made it look easy. Earning the nickname, “The Chairman of the Boards,” Malone had the rare ability to single-handedly take over games by turning missed shots into scoring opportunities and dictating the tempo of the game.
Indeed, the combination of Malone’s work-ethic and basketball I.Q. made him a force to be reckoned with, averaging around 25 points and 15 rebounds across seven consecutive seasons. He was named NBA MVP three times, was a 12-time All-Star, and helped secure the 1983 NBA Championship for the Philadelphia 76ers in his first year with the team.
While most people remember Moses Malone for his game, the players who played with and against him remember him for his sense of humor, his leadership qualities and his intense passion for basketball. Malone prided himself for being a student of the game, convincing himself that he wasn’t great – despite the stats showing otherwise – to motivate himself to work even harder.
“Basketball was his specialty, but life was his calling,” said former NBA All-Star Ralph Sampson about Malone. “If you meet somebody like that, you gravitate to him. He was never up. He was never down. He was just Moses.”
Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all-time. His record speaks for itself: of the big men that made their names in the NBA, none dominated like Moses Malone.
Beyond his uncanny ability to control games through his rebounding, Malone will be remembered for his dedicated application of the purest, unscripted and unteachable basketball play there is: passion.