Utah Jazz legend Karl Malone celebrated his 54th birthday today and still looks like he could suit up and rejoin the on-court action.
To many Utahns, July 24th is known as Pioneer Day, but to die hard Jazz fans, it’s more importantly known as Karl Malone’s birthday. Coincidentally, in one of the funnier stories in Utah Jazz history, upon coming to Utah after being selected by the Jazz, Karl Malone was duped into thinking that the parade and hoopla being held in Salt Lake City for Pioneer Day was indeed to celebrate his birthday.
A 2013 article from the Salt Lake Tribune by Steve Luhm recounted the tale as follows:
"His first visit to Utah coincided with the state’s Pioneer Day celebration and he accepted then-coach Frank Layden’s invitation to ride on the team’s float in the Days of ’47 parade.Initially, Layden told Malone the parade was being held because of his 22nd birthday.“That’s no urban legend,” Malone said. “That’s the truth. … I was waving like a [beauty] pageant queen. If there were cellphones back then, I would have called my mom and said, ‘You won’t believe it. All of Utah is here for me.’ ”When the parade ended, Malone told Layden it was “amazing” so many people helped him celebrate his birthday. His new coach laughed and said, “I can’t believe you fell for that one.”"
One of the earliest tales in Karl Malone’s Utah Jazz career was certainly a comical one, but far from the best one that the Jazz legend would produce as the moments and memories he gave his fans on the court definitely outweighed his early confusion about the purpose of the parade he was participating in.
Over the course of his career, Malone averaged 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game with his highest scoring season coming in 1989-90 where he put up 31 points per game and his highest rebounding output coming in 1987-88 where he pulled down 12 boards per game. The Mailman was a 14-time All-Star who helped lead his Jazz team to 18 playoff appearances while also netting two NBA MVP Awards.
Thus, in honor of the Mailman turning 54 years old today, I wanted to share a few highlight reels showcasing some of his greatest moments as a Jazzman, including his career-high 61-point game and some great playoff plays with his partner-in-crime John Stockton.
Those are clips that I could watch for days. There’s no denying that Malone was not only one of the best Jazzmen to hit the court, but one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball.
And even though the Mailman celebrated his 54th birthday today, ironically he still looks fit enough that he could suit up and play for the Utah Jazz in today’s NBA. Just check out how good he looks in the latest Jimmy Kimmel Segment of ‘All Alone With Karl Malone.’
Can’t you just seeing him joining the 2017-18 Jazz and punishing opponents in the paint just like the good old days? He’s only 1,459 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabaar to become the all-time NBA scoring leader, so why doesn’t he come back and give it a shot?
All jokes aside though, without a doubt, Malone gave his fans some of the best years of Jazz basketball and his statue outside of Vivint Smart Home Arena stands as a reminder of just what kind of legacy he built there.
So from all of us in Jazz Nation, Happy Birthday Karl Malone!