Guided by hard work and a never-ending quest to be the best player he could possibly be—Karl Malone has finally found himself at the end of a long journey.
The two-time MVP and original Dream Team member was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night, but not without a tearful salute to his mother, family, and teammates.
The 14-time All-Star, who ran like a deer and could slam a basketball on any living thing, humbly thanked his wife and family for helping him reach the pinnacle of his sport.
"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."
During an emotional moment, Malone thanked late owner Larry Miller for believing in him. Of course that belief, helped bring together one of the greatest one-two punches in NBA history.
Paired with Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton and Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz became one of the winningest franchises of the mid-'80s and '90s.
At the end, Malone delivered a heartfelt message—recalling the influence his mother had on him. "I’m here because of her," a teary-eyed Malone said.
The Olympic gold medalist stated numerous times during his speech that his Hall of Fame career wasn’t something he planned on.
In fact, it was the result of a tremendous work ethic and a relentless dedication to the game.
At his peak, Malone was regarded as the best power forward of all time, even though he might be more famous for being one-half of the most dynamic duo (Stockton-to-Malone) in NBA history.
Malone was clearly the catalyst that propelled Utah to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and put the small-market Jazz in the national spotlight for the first time.
However, losses to Michael Jordan’s Bulls and diminishing skills left Malone’s unbelievable career tarnished. He even left $19 million on the table in Utah to play for the mega-dysfunctional Shaq/Kobe-led Lakers in 2004. Unfortunately for Malone, injuries and a shocking upset by the Pistons in the Finals denied the power forward a ring.
Malone surpassed the great Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list in 2003 and remains the second all-time leading scorer in NBA history. More importantly, the 6-foot-9 freight train revolutionized the power forward position forever.