Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone still doing what he do at 52. Still shooting anything floating in the sky or rumbling on the ground–or fishing out of some hole in the ground even if the doggone sucker weighs in at over 50 pounds, man.
Still running automobile dealerships in the big city and getting props from his boys on the Twitter at Karl Malone Toyota. Oh yeah, and he has his own emoji showing off his bulging bicep.
Matter of fact, Malone still do and say everything opposite NBA players his age. The difference is he’s not acting like some jerk or some pompous a– like Kobe or Shaq–or getting a DUI like Charles Barkley–and he’s still actually giving back to the community for which he played.
What Shaq doing on the dadgum TV? Kobe thinking he making emojis or something? If Malone have a helicopter, for example, he gonna equip it with camo and enough guns capable of blasting animals from the sky or on the ground–not flying it back and forth from Orange County to avoid snarling LA traffic like some foofy.
Sure, on Earth Malone still talks in the third person after all these years and it’s sort of annoying that Karl Malone still talk like this because well, you would think he care that Karl Malone talk about himself in the third person. But Karl Malone doesn’t change who he is, which still draws you, the active observer even further into his mystique.
So what if Malone referred to Salt Lake City 30 years ago today as “the city of Utah.” And as Deseret News rock columnist Brad Rock noted in his nifty little travelogue on Thursday, July 23, yeah, Malone thought the Days of ’47 Parade was organized in honor of his arrival back in 1985. To hell with it being the state’s birthday.
“I remember picking him up from the airport and we were on a tight deadline,” explained David Allred, who was the Jazz’s vice president for public relations, to Rock in an interview. “I guess I didn’t make it clear to him what the parade was about. I just said, ‘I’ve got to get you to the parade.’” By the time they reached the Jazz float, across from Temple Square, the parade had begun. Malone looked wide-eyed out the window and said, “This entire parade is for me?”
Yes, the day of the parade just so happened to fall on Malone’s birthday, making it potentially a double celebration for the would-be Mailman. Ask yourself one question as you read this crazy retelling: Who wouldn’t want two honorariums in one day, or even a parade?
In all ways, Malone never did anything halfway. It was all the way or no way for him, and despite never winning an NBA title he earned the admiration of all who played against him–including His Airness, Michael Jordan. Malone’s nievity in some ways dissipated with time as he won multiple league MVP trophies and in other, more admirable ways, it did not.
His work ethic is the stuff of legend, almost crafting a story about a mythical superhero who cuts a hulking figure when you see them in person–until you get to know them as a person.
It did for this writer, who when sitting in Malone’s monster truck parked behind the old Salt Palace thought he was in hog Heaven. Finishing a long shift after selling sodas in the Palace stands, you would think that the young Mailman wouldn’t deliver for some punk kid and his buds from Magna, but no way, man.
He offered us a ride back to our podunk town–which my buddy Brent declined since his mom was already on her way to pick up us 13-year-olds on a frosty Saturday night. And so we sat and listened to Malone’s new stereo blasting a Sawyer Brown song out of his jacked up pickup after the game, then watched him grin from ear to ear as he showed us the horses chugging under that hood.
For us kids, it didn’t matter that we didn’t talk about hoops. When Malone challenged Kobe to a fight, it brought us together on Facebook for a minute, talking about that day back in 1985, back when he just signed with the Jazz and owned the town. We were reminiscing about THAT Malone.
A story like the one us kids had to remember so many years later is all kinds of cool, really, even to an adult who knew him when and even when, as Rock so eloquently stated, the city itself now is 10 times bigger than it was back when. So say what you want about Malone the man, but know that he will never cave in to this fame thing if he can help it.
And for us kids from Magna, you know, the ones who wore Malone’s No. 32 jerseys and watched him deliver from the foul line extended time and again with his patented hammer dunk, life would never be the same after that exchange.
Because with Malone’s growing popularity, so did his security detail and eventually, even the tiny arena–our Fabulous Forum–with those high, stark walls climbing into the sky eventually became a memory, leading to a more grandiose and menacing building on 300 West. But even as good times and as people often change and fade with those times, he never did. And he never will.
And so Karl Malone may say what he say, and people may think they know what he say. But unless you be there and do and say, you don’t know what he say, period.
What Malone’s courage showed above all, was that he could stay the way he was. Meanwhile, he was still capable of standing up to and rising above the status quo, be it the locals who never understood what he say and poked fun at him, or the time when Kobe’s spiffy little LA wife teased him about his western outfit and he hit back with a snappy comeback to put her in her place–or when the legions of media could hardly determine what the guy was saying in the first place.
Karl Malone been ridiculed, he’s been attacked and cajoled umpteen times but he doesn’t really care what you think. And you know what? We like how Karl Malone say what he mean to say, especially on this, his and the city of Utah’s birthday.