Moses Eugene Malone (1955-2015)

Moses Malone at 2005 NBA Legends Tour, January 22, 2005
Public Domain Image

Hall of Fame National Basketball Association (NBA) player Moses Eugene Malone was born March 23, 1955, in Petersburg, Virginia, and was raised by his mother, Mary Malone, a store clerk. Malone was the first player in history to go to the professional ranks directly from high school. He became one of the most dominant centers in the NBA over his twenty-one-year career. Malone was a ferocious rebounder and a great scorer, who finished his career as the third leading rebounder and the sixth leading scorer in combined NBA/ABA history. In 1996 he was chosen to be a member of the NBA’s fiftieth anniversary all-time team.

Malone attended Petersburg High School where he led his team to fifty consecutive wins and back-to-back state titles in 1973 and 1974. He initially agreed to attend the University of Maryland but chose instead to skip college. This was a groundbreaking and controversial decision. In response, the NBA in 2005 decreed that players must be nineteen before they can enter the draft, forcing high school players to go to college. As a result, players must attend college for at least a year before turning pro.

Moses Malone began his pro career in 1974, signing with the ABA’s Utah Stars where he averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds in his rookie season. He played the following season for the Spirits of St. Louis before moving to the Buffalo Braves for a brief stint after the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. He later landed with the Houston Rockets. There Malone won his first MVP award in 1978–1979 after leading the league in rebounding (17.6 rpg). Two seasons later, he led the Rockets to the NBA finals. Malone won his second MVP award in 1981–1982 season after averaging 31.1 points and 14.7 rebounds.

He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers where he joined a talented team that featured Julius Erving, Bobby Jones, and Maurice Cheeks. Considered one of the greatest teams of all time, the 76ers dominated the league in 1983, posting a regular season record of 65-17, and going 12-1 in the postseason capturing the NBA Championship. Malone was MVP of the regular season as well as the NBA Finals. He stayed with Philadelphia for another three seasons, winning the rebounding title in two of the three years.

After Philadelphia, despite being past his prime, Malone remained a dominant player for the next four seasons, playing two years for the Washington Bullets and two more with the Atlanta Hawks. He played for the Milwaukee Bucks, again for the Sixers and for the San Antonio Spurs before retiring during the 1994–1995 NBA season. The three-time NBA MVP was one of only four players to accumulate 25,000 points and 15,000 rebounds over his twenty-season NBA career. His 16,212 rebounds still rank fifth on the NBA’s all-time list, while his 27,409 career points rank eighth. The twelve-time All-Star also holds NBA records for offensive rebounds in a career (6,731), season (587), and game (21).

Moses Malone died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease on September 13, 2015, in Norfolk, Virginia, at the age of sixty. He is survived by three sons: Moses Malone Jr., Michael Malone, and Micah Malone, and a longtime companion, Leah Nash.