Moses Malone was the first basketball player to go directly from preps to pros.

A relentless rebounder and effective scorer who made the jump from high school to a pro career that lasted 21 years, Malone was one of the greatest centers of all time.  Along with Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he is one of three players to exceed 28,000 points and 17,000 rebounds in a career.  Drafted straight out of high school into the ABA, Malone played for nine franchises in his career.  After stints with the ABA Utah Jazz and Spirits of St. Louis, he joined the NBA as part of the 1976 merger, then played on seven teams over the next 19 seasons.

One of eight players in history who have been named NBA MVP three or more times, Malone was a 12-time All-Star and who landed on eight All-NBA teams.  The NBA began tracking offensive rebounds for the 1973-74 season. Big Mo is the all-time leader in that category.  He led the ABA and NBA in offensive boards nine times and finished in the top three in five other seasons.  Malone established league records for most rebounds in a game [21] and in a season [587].

Despite his aggressive style, Moses Malone played a record 1,212 games without fouling out.

Dubbed the Chairman of the Boards for his rebounding prowess, Malone relied on strength, quickness and tenacity.  Only 6’10” and 260, he was one of the hardest workers ever to play the game.  Malone owns the four best offensive rebounding seasons in NBA history.  A member of the ABA All-Time Team and NBA’s Top 50, he retired as the third-leading rebounder and sixth-leading scorer in combined ABA/NBA history.

A tireless and physical player, Malone led the NBA in rebounding six times, including five straight from 1981 to 1985.  The NBA plays a grueling 82-game schedule, yet the reliable Malone rarely missed a start.  Possessing a lunch bucket mentality, he played in every one of his team’s games in nine different seasons and 78 or more in three others.  Big Mo twice led the league in minutes played.

In a career that spanned more than two decades, Moses Malone played in 1,455 games.  He averaged a double-double, scoring 20.6 points while hauling down 12.3 rebounds per game.  A blue-collar player of epic proportions, he averaged just under 50 percent from the field and is second all-time in free throws made and attempted.

Moses Malone was named NBA MVP for the second straight year in 1983, becoming the only player in the history of the four major American sports leagues to win the award in consecutive seasons with two different teams.

Born in Petersburg, Virginia, March 23, 1955, Moses Eugene Malone was the only child of a single mother who dropped out of the sixth grade.  At Petersburg High School, he led the Crimson Wave to back-to-back undefeated seasons, winning 50 straight games and two state titles.  The best prep basketball player in Virginia history, Malone was named 1974 Mr. Basketball USA.  He signed a letter of intent to play for Lefty Driesell, who was in the midst of trying to build the University of Maryland into the “UCLA of the East.”  After the Utah Stars selected Malone in the third round of the 1974 ABA draft, the 18-year-old decided to turn pro.

Malone was an ABA All-Star as a rookie.  A skinny 215-pounder, he began as a forward before bulking up for the rigors of playing center.  When the Stars folded 16 games into his second season, Malone was sold to the Spirits of St. Louis.  The Spirits were not among the four teams invited to join the NBA as part of the merger and Malone was taken by Portland with the fifth overall pick of the 1976 ABA dispersal draft.  The Blazers traded him to the Buffalo Braves prior to the start of the season, but Malone was dealt to the Houston Rockets after only two games in exchange for two first-round draft picks.

Moses played five seasons in Houston, where he was a two-time MVP.  He led the Rockets to the 1981 NBA Finals, only to be beaten by the Boston Celtics.  In 1982, he was traded to Philadelphia.  Teaming with Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones, Moses led the Sixers to the promised land in 1983.  He was named league MVP, then famously proclaimed “Fo, fo, fo” in anticipation of three straight Philly series sweeps by in the playoffs.  The big man wasn’t far off, as the Sixers won 12 of 13 playoff games to take the NBA title, with the 28-year-old pivotman garnering Finals MVP honors.

The Sixers selected Charles Barkley with the fifth pick of the 1984 NBA draft.  When the Round Mound of Rebound reported to training camp at 300 pounds, Malone began to mentor him.  Barkley – who called Malone “Dad” — got down to 255, made the All-Rookie Team, and landed in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

Following his glory years with the Sixers, Malone was an All-Star in his only two seasons with the then-Washington Bullets.  He played three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, where he earned his 12th and final All-Star nod in 1978-79.  Injuries derailed Moses in the waning years of his career, as he made stops in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and San Antonio.  His final season came in 1994-95, where he played 17 games for the Spurs before calling it quits as the last remaining player from the ABA.

Moses Malone retired in 1995.  Three years later, the Rockets retired his number 24.  Malone was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 in his first year of eligibility, where Julius Erving was his presenter.  Mr. Malone died in his sleep at a hotel in Norfolk, Virginia, September 13, 2015.  He was scheduled to play in a charity golf tournament the next day and was found unresponsive in his room when he failed to appear at breakfast or answer his phone.  The former center died of heart disease at 60.  In February 2019, the 76ers retired his number 2 and dedicated a statue in front of the team’s training facility in Camden, New Jersey.

On this date in 1983, reigning MVP Moses Malone poured in 24 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots in 41 minutes of work as the Philadelphia 76ers downed the Kansas City Kings, 108-100, before 16,027 fans at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.

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Comments

  1. Malone was one of those players that you loved if he played for your team and you hated if he didn’t. As a Celtics fan I will never forget the 1981 playoffs when Malone and his 76 ‘ers were up 3-1 and MM was calling the Celtics a bunch of chumps. Larry Bird and the rest of the Celtics stormed back to win three in a row to take the series 4-3 in what many consider the greatest NBA playoff series ever, with 5 of the games decided by one or two points. After the Celtics beat the Houston Rockets 4-2 to win the first Championship of the Bird era, Malone doubled down and said he could beat the Celtics with a pick up team from his hometown in Virginia. Larry, not wanting to be outdone, famously said during the championship parade, while reading a fans sign, that yes, Moses Malone does eat sh*t. Just like that the Celtics/Sixer’s rivalry was taken up a notch. Every game after that was hard fought and nasty. The Sixers went up 3-1 the next year in the Conference finals again but managed to hold on and win game 7 in Boston while the Celtics fans chanted “Beat LA”. I miss the old NBA . There were no friend ships with players on other teams and there were genuine rivalries.

  2. Moses Malone was NOT on the 1980-81 Sixers team that blew the 3-1 Series Lead to Boston in the semis. He joined the Sixers in the Fall of 1982.

  3. OOPs. You are correct. My memory ain’t what it used to be. Malone was actually on the Houston Rockets at that time, whom the Celtics beat in the finals. It was then that he said they were Chumps and that he could beat them with a pick up team. Doesn’t take away from the fact that the Celtics /Sixers series was one of the best ever.

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