Mailman Delivers on Hall of Fame Speech, Pippen as Well
It was one of the few times in basketball the Mailman wasn't able to deliver.
"I said two things," Malone had said Friday hours before his evening induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. "I don't want to talk long and I don't want to cry. So I'm leaving my mom to the end. If not, I'll be sniffing the whole time."
Yes, Malone did leave his mother, Shirley Turner, who died exactly seven years earlier on Aug. 13, 2003, due to a heart attack, to the end. But he still sniffed the whole time.
In fact, the burly power forward, who usually left opponents in tears, was crying from the very second he stepped to the podium at Springfield's Symphony Hall.
"Charles, I lost the bet," Malone said of a friendly wager with Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley about not crying during his speech. "I just want to say I'm very honored, I'm very respectful to the Naismith Hall of Fame. (Crying) is not anything that I planned."
Malone, the NBA's second-leading scorer in history from 1985-2003 with Utah before finishing up his career in 2003-04 with the Lakers, headed the Hall of Fame inductions along with former Chicago forward Scottie Pippen. Both also were inducted along with the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, which concluded the evening program with its enshrinement and got a rousing applause.
Michael Jordan was among the 12 players from the Dream Team all on hand to be inducted and served as presenter for Pippen, his teammate on Bulls outfits that won six NBA titles in the 1990s. While Jordan did not speak publicly during the enshrinement, let's just say none of the inductees offered up any similarities to Jordan's induction speech last year in which he belittled opponents.
Pippen, a Bull from 1987-1998 and in 2003-04 while playing for five years in between with Houston and Portland, was as humble as one could be. Known mostly in his career for being Jordan's sidekick, Pippen praised Jordan as soon as he stepped to the podium.
"Who knew that No. 23 would be here 23 years later (after Pippen entered the NBA) presenting me into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame?" Pippen said. "M.J., you touched so many people lives but none quite like mine. Thank you for being the best teammate. I will always cherish that experience and I will cherish our relationship forever."
Throw in the enshrinement of the 1992 and 1960 U.S. Olympic gold-medal winning teams and the Hall of Fame never has had an evening this star-studded. Of the 12 members of the 1992 team, eight -- Jordan, Barkley, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler and John Stockton -- already had been inducted individually before Malone and Pippen joined them.
The 1960 Olympic team featured four players who already had been inducted individually in Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy. For two days, players from the 1960 outfit had been ribbing 1992 members about how they had the more dominant Olympic outfit, so it only was fitting Bird closed the evening by taking a playful shot at the old guys.
"I don't know who had the best team but know the team in 1960 was a hell of a lot tougher than we were because I couldn't imagine the '92 team getting in a covered wagon for eight days going across the country," Bird said to laughs. "Jumping in the Atlantic Ocean, swimming for six days, and then walking 3,000 miles to the Coliseum in Rome for a dollar a day (the amount West had joked earlier was the team per diem)."
When it came to winning NBA title rings, the Dream Team did quite well. Jordan and Pippen each have six, Johnson has five, Bird owns three, Robinson has two and Drexler one. But there was one guy inducted Friday who has them all beat.
That would be Lakers owner Jerry Buss, whose teams have won 10 championships since he took over in 1979. Adding to the star-studded affair, Buss was introduced by Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, and legendary coach Pat Riley.
Others inducted who can show off plenty of jewelry are women's star Cynthia Cooper, who won two NCAA titles at USC and four crowns with the WNBA's Houston Comets from 1997-2000, and coach Bob Hurley Sr., who has won three USA Today national titles and 25 New Jersey Parochial titles with St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City.
Three deceased players also got the nod. They were Dennis Johnson, who won a title with Seattle and two with Boston while an NBA defensive stalwart from 1976-90, Gus Johnson, an NBA and ABA high-wire act from 1963-73 and Maciel Pereira, a Brazilian star in the 1960s and '70s.
There was plenty of emotion when relatives of the three talked about the late players. And Malone's emotion reached a crescendo when he discussed his mother having passed away before his final season as an NBA player.
"I would not be here without her," Malone said. "I would tell you one thing. Every single day, every single breath I take (is for her). She was my mom and my dad and my hero. I just want to say I'm here because of her.'
It wasn't the only touching moment of the day from Malone. In the morning, he was presented with his official Hall of Fame jacket, but it was way too small. So he gave it to a young boy in a wheelchair.
"It's too short, too small," the 6-foot-9 Malone had said earlier in the day. "I pride myself on working out ... If they went to Men's Wearhouse, that would fit right off the (rack). Sean John (the designer of the jackets) made them for 5-foot guys, 6-foot guys."
So maybe the guy in charge of the jacket for the Mailman didn't end up delivering. But Malone actually did so in the end with his emotional speech.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson