Moses Eugene Malone (born March 23, 1955 in Petersburg, Virginia) is an American former National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball player who also played in the American Basketball Association (ABA), as well as on the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Washington Bullets. Malone played 19 seasons in the NBA and 2 in the defunct ABA. Before retiring from basketball, he was the last ABA participant to still be playing in the NBA. In 2001, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The ABA dissolved after the 1975–76 season, but the NBA absorbed four of its teams and many of its players. In the ABA Dispersal Draft held on August 5, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers selected Malone from the Spirits of St. Louis with the fifth overall pick.
The 21-year-old center never played a game for the Blazers, however. Prior to the 1976–77 season Portland traded him to the Buffalo Braves for a 1978 first-round draft choice. Even then, Malone’s travels weren’t over. After only two games with Buffalo he was traded by the Braves to the Houston Rockets for two future first-round draft choices.
Malone found a home in Houston, where he was reunited with Coach Tom Nissalke, who had coached him in his rookie season with the ABA’s Utah Stars. With the Rockets, Malone established himself immediately as one of the NBA’s most ferocious rebounders, particularly on the offensive end. He appeared in 82 games overall for both Buffalo and Houston and finished with averages of 13.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. He ranked third in the NBA in rebounding behind Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and established a new NBA record for offensive rebounds in a season, with 437, shattering Paul Silas’s old mark of 365. (Malone would break his own record two years later.) Malone also ranked seventh in the league in blocked shots, with 2.21 per game.
He delivered in the playoffs, helping the Rockets to the Eastern Conference Finals, which they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in six games. Malone averaged 18.8 points and 16.9 rebounds in 12 playoff games. He set an NBA Playoff record with 15 offensive rebounds in an overtime victory against the Washington Bullets in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Malone’s second NBA season ended prematurely when he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and missed the Rockets’ final 23 games. Remarkably, he still led the NBA in total offensive rebounds (380) and finished second in rebounding average (15.0 rpg) behind Leonard “Truck” Robinson (15.7).
Malone made the first of what would be 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances in 1978, the year that would have been his senior season had he chosen to play college basketball. His scoring output surged to 19.4 points per game, third best on the Rockets behind Calvin Murphy's 25.6 and Rudy Tomjanovich's 21.5.
Had Malone chosen to accept a scholarship at the University of Maryland, the 1978–79 season would have been his rookie campaign in the NBA. Instead, it was his fifth professional season (third with the Rockets) and one of the best of his career. Beginning the year at only age 23, Malone went on to win the NBA Most Valuable Player Award after averaging 24.8 points and a career-high 17.6 rebounds. Having gained 15 pounds in the offseason to weigh in at a robust 235, he led the league in rebounding and established the NBA’s all-time record for offensive rebounds in a season, with 587.
Malone also finished fifth in the NBA in scoring and shot a career-best .540 from the field. He was named to the All-NBA First Team and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team and started at center for the East squad in the 1979 NBA All-Star Game.
The 6-foot-10 giant notched the best single-game rebounding performance of his career when he hauled in 37 boards against the New Orleans Jazz on February 9. Houston advanced to the NBA Playoffs but was swept in two opening-round games by the Atlanta Hawks. Malone totaled an impressive 49 points and 41 rebounds in the two games.
Malone continued to dominate the paint in his fourth NBA season. He averaged 25.8 points and 14.5 rebounds, ranking fifth in the league in scoring and second to Swen Nater (15.0 rpg) in rebounding. He made his third straight All-Star appearance—his second straight as a starter—and was named to the All-NBA Second Team at season’s end.
Malone’s indomitable spirit helped the Rockets defeat the San Antonio Spurs in a best-of-three first-round playoff series. He scored 37 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in the third and deciding game, leading Houston to a 141-120 victory. The Rockets were then swept by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Malone returned to the top of the NBA’s rebounding charts, beginning a record string of five consecutive seasons leading the league. He grabbed 14.8 rebounds per game in 80 appearances, earning his second straight berth on the All-NBA Second Team. An All-Star for the fourth consecutive season, Malone (27.8 ppg) also finished runner-up to Adrian Dantley (30.7) for the league’s scoring title. He exploded for 51 points in a March 11 game against the Golden State Warriors, hitting 20 of 28 field goals and 11 of 12 free throws. It was the third-highest single-game effort in Rockets history up to that time, behind Calvin Murphy’s 57 points and Elvin Hayes’s 54.
Now in the Midwest Division, Houston finished tied with the Kansas City Kings for second place with a 40-42 record. The Rockets, energized by Malone’s 26.8 points and 14.5 rebounds per game during the playoffs, advanced all the way to the NBA Finals. They lost in six games to the Boston Celtics, who were led by second-year forward Larry Bird.
Malone had another spectacular season, averaging 31.1 points and 14.7 rebounds and capturing his second of three NBA Most Valuable Player Awards. The perennial All-Star led the league in rebounding for a second straight season and finished runner-up to George Gervin (32.3 ppg) for the league’s scoring title.
The ultimate workhorse, Malone led the NBA in minutes played (3,398, 42.0 per game) and offensive rebounds (558). At season’s end, he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the second time in his six-year career. Malone’s stratospheric scoring average would stand as a career high, as would the 53 points he scored against the San Diego Clippers on February 2. He also broke his own NBA record with 21 offensive rebounds in a game against the Seattle SuperSonics on February 11.
In Malone’s last season in Houston, the Rockets followed an NBA Finals appearance in 1981 with a first-round playoff exit in 1982. Despite 24.0 points and 17.0 rebounds per game from Malone, Houston lost to Seattle in three games.
Malone became a restricted free agent after the 1981–82 season, and he signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia 76ers on September 2. Houston then exercised its right of first refusal and matched the offer, only to trade Malone to the Sixers on September 15 for Caldwell Jones and a 1983 first-round draft choice.
Philadelphia added the 1982 NBA Most Valuable Player to a mix that already included Julius Erving, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, and Bobby Jones. The result was an NBA Championship—and the second straight MVP Award for Malone (becoming the only NBA player ever to win the MVP award in consecutive seasons with two different teams, a feat only matched by Barry Bonds (1992-93) in the four major sports). Now in his seventh season of professional basketball (fifth in the NBA), Malone led the league in rebounding (15.3 rpg) for a third consecutive year. With Erving (21.4 ppg) and Toney (19.7) making strong scoring contributions, Malone’s average dipped to 24.5 points per game, still good enough for fifth in the NBA.
An All-Star for a sixth straight time, Malone made the All-NBA First Team and the NBA All-Defensive First Team at season’s end. The Sixers lost only one postseason contest en route to the league championship, concluding their title run with a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals. Malone averaged 26.0 points and 15.8 rebounds in 13 postseason games and was named Most Valuable Player of the Finals.
Said head coach Billy Cunningham, "The difference from last year was Moses" (the Lakers had beaten the Sixers in the 1982 NBA Finals). Before the playoffs began, reporters asked how the playoffs would run. Malone answered "four, four, four" — in other words, predicting that the Sixers would sweep all three rounds to win the title, with the minimum 12 games. Malone's deep voice made his boast sound like "fo', fo', fo'." However, the Sixers backed up Malone's boast, losing only one playoff game (game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Milwaukee Bucks) en route to making Malone a world champion for the first time. This led some to rephrase Malone's prediction as "fo', fi', fo'" (four, five, four). Still, the Sixers' 12-1 record in the playoffs is one of the most dominant playoff runs in NBA history (the Lakers went 15-1 in 2001 in the extended four-round playoff format).
In the 1983-84 season Malone led the league in rebounding for a fourth straight season and fifth overall, finishing with 13.4 per game. Ankle injuries limited him to 71 games that season, his lowest number of appearances since 1977–78. Still, he posted a 22.7 scoring average in his second season with the Sixers and was named to the All-NBA Second Team at year’s end.
Malone was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game for a seventh consecutive year but missed the game because of his aching ankle. He averaged 21.4 points and 13.8 rebounds in five postseason games, but Philadelphia suffered a first-round playoff upset at the hands of the New Jersey Nets.
When Malone finished the season with an average of 13.1 rebounds per game he became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding for five consecutive seasons. Wilt Chamberlain had held the previous record with two separate stretches of four straight titles in the 1960s.
An All-Star for the eighth time, Malone chalked up 24.6 points per game (ninth in the NBA) and earned his fourth selection to the All-NBA First Team. He finished third in the balloting for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, won this season by Boston’s Larry Bird.
The nine-year NBA veteran scored his 15,000th NBA point on November 28 and grabbed his 10,000th NBA rebound on March 29. He exploded for 51 points against the Detroit Pistons on November 14.
Philadelphia advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1985 but lost to Boston in five games. Malone contributed 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in the postseason.
Malone’s 10th NBA season and last with Philadelphia came to an abrupt end when on March 28 he suffered a fractured orbit of the right eye against the Milwaukee Bucks. He missed the Sixers’ last eight games and the entire postseason. Without him, Philadelphia lost to the Bucks in a seven-game Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
In 74 appearances Malone averaged 23.8 points and 11.8 rebounds. He ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring but surrendered the league’s rebounding crown for the first time in six seasons, finishing fourth behind the Detroit Pistons’ Bill Laimbeer (13.1 rpg), Philadelphia teammate Charles Barkley (12.8), and the New Jersey Nets’ Buck Williams (12.0).
Malone was an All-Star for the ninth straight season but failed to make an All-NBA Team for the first time since 1978.
The 11-year veteran bounced back from an injury-shortened 1985–86 campaign to average 24.1 points and 11.3 rebounds and reclaim a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. An All-Star for the 10th consecutive season, he was the only NBA player to rank among the league’s top 10 in both scoring and rebounding, placing ninth in each category.
Malone scored his 20,000th NBA point on April 12 against the Detroit Pistons. He exploded for 50 points versus the New Jersey Nets on April 8, joining Earl Monroe (56) and Phil Chenier (52) as the only Bullets players ever to score 50 points in a game.
Washington made a brief appearance in the postseason, losing to the Pistons in a first-round sweep. Malone averaged 20.7 points and 12.7 rebounds in three playoff games.
Malone kept plugging away in his 12th NBA season and second with Washington. He averaged 20.3 points and 11.2 rebounds, ranking fourth in the league in rebounding and 19th in scoring. He earned his 11th consecutive All-Star selection and was one of only four players to rank in the top 20 in scoring and the top 10 in rebounding.
Malone scored in double figures in 76 of 79 games and recorded 55 double-doubles for the year. He helped the Bullets to the 1988 NBA Playoffs, where they lost to the Detroit Pistons in a five-game first-round series. Malone contributed 18.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game in five postseason appearances.
The 13-year veteran scored in double figures in 75 of his 81 appearances and rebounded in double figures 55 times. He poured in a season-high 37 points against the Phoenix Suns on February 4.
After nearly toppling the Boston Celtics the year before in a thrilling Eastern Conference Semifinal series, Atlanta didn’t make it out of the first round in 1989. The Hawks lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games, despite 21.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game from their veteran center.
In his second season with Atlanta, Malone failed to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for the first time since his second NBA season. He finished at 18.9 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game, snapping a string of 11 straight 20-10 campaigns. The 14-year veteran led the NBA in offensive rebounds, with 364, and tied for eighth in rebounding average. He led the Hawks in scoring 20 times and in rebounding 41 times.
In Mike Fratello’s final year as head coach, Atlanta struggled to a 41-41 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Malone started at center for the first 15 games of the 1990–91 season, but then Atlanta’s new coach, Bob Weiss, moved him to the bench and made him Jon Koncak’s backup for the final 67 contests. Although he was the only Hawk to appear in all 82 games, Malone failed to play 2,000 minutes in a season (1,912) for the first time in his 15-year NBA career.
Malone averaged 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game—all career lows up to that point. He nevertheless continued to etch his name in the NBA record books. With career free throw No. 7,695 against the Indiana Pacers on November 3, he became the NBA’s all-time leader in free throws made, surpassing Oscar Robertson. He also scored his 25,000th career point on November 21 versus the Milwaukee Bucks and grabbed his 15,000th rebound against the Dallas Mavericks on March 15. Malone broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 1,045 consecutive games without fouling out when he reached No. 1,046 in a game against the Detroit Pistons on March 19.
Atlanta returned to the playoffs but fell to the Pistons in a five-game first-round series. Malone contributed only 4.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in the postseason.
He ranked second on the Bucks in scoring and first in rebounding, leading the team in boards in 54 of 82 games. He scored a season-high 30 points twice and grabbed 19 rebounds against the Seattle SuperSonics on March 27.
Milwaukee, about to begin a rebuilding process, finished 31-51 and tied with the Charlotte Hornets for last place in the Central Division.
Malone missed most of the 1992–93 season while recovering from back surgery. He finally returned to active duty on March 27 and made 11 appearances for Milwaukee. He played only 104 total minutes and averaged 4.5 points and 4.4 rebounds. On April 12 he registered season highs of 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 18 minutes in a game against the Miami Heat.
Milwaukee continued to struggle while developing young talent. The Bucks finished 28-54 and last in the Central Division.
Many thought Malone would retire after an injury-plagued 1992–93 campaign, but the Philadelphia 76ers convinced him to play another season—his 18th in the NBA and his 20th in professional basketball. Indeed, Malone was the only remaining active player who had played in the ABA.
The Sixers signed him as a free agent in August, primarily to have him tutor 7-foot-6 rookie Shawn Bradley. Malone and Assistant Coach Jeff Ruland worked with Bradley throughout the year and helped him to improve noticeably, before a dislocated left kneecap and a chipped bone in his knee shelved Bradley for the rest of the season.
For his part, Malone appeared in 55 games off the bench and averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds. At season’s end, he ranked third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (27,360 points), third in games played (1,312), fifth in rebounds (16,166), first in offensive rebounds (6,711), first in free throws made (8,509), second in free throws attempted (11,058), and first in consecutive games played without a disqualification (1,195).
Malone wore several different jersey numbers in his career, among them #2 with the Sixers, Hawks, and Spurs, #4 with the Bullets, #8 with the Bucks, #13 with the Spirits, #22 with the Stars, #20 in his two games with Buffalo Braves and #21 and #24 with the Rockets.