It has been a dozen years now that Moses Malone has been a pro, living in a financial and statistical land of milk and honey.
When the Bullets acquired Malone, 31, in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers announced yesterday, they acquired a center whom Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell, a one-time recruiting suitor of Malone, merely called "the best who has ever played. This is the greatest thing the Bullets have ever done. . . . He shoulda been around here in college."
The trade and subsequent draft not only leaves the Bullets with two Malones (Moses and Jeff) and two Williams (John and Gus), it also leaves the 76ers to wonder whether Moses Malone will carry out an apparent threat he made on a halftime show during Game 4 of the NBA championship series.
Asked about the possibility of being traded, Malone told CBS Sports he would accept a trade to a team in the West or in Texas. But he forewarned the 76ers: "Please don't trade me to the East, because Moses will come to play."
Over the years, Malone's numbers have become as mountainous as his 6-foot-10, 255-pound made-for-bruising frame: Three times he has been voted the National Basketball Association's most valuable player (1979, 1982, 1983); six times he has led the league in rebounding; nine times he has been voted an all-star; he has been a championship series MVP and a two-time member of the NBA's all-defensive team.
In 1974, Malone was a 19-year-old oversized pup who exited high school in Petersburg, Va., and chose to not to attend Maryland, signing instead with the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association for $3 million over seven years. Malone has been earning big money for a long time.
"After you get to $1 million a year in salary ," Julius Erving, Malone's 76ers teammate, once said, "it gets repetitious." Over the past four years, Malone earned a $2.2-million annual salary as part of his six-year, $13.2-million deal with the 76ers. Asked about the size of that contract, Malone once said: "Owner thinks it's cool, it's cool."
Malone has been one of the league's most dominant inside forces since the late 1970s. Consider that in each of the past eight seasons, he has averaged at least 22 points and 11 rebounds per game. Although it is true he suffered a broken bone beneath his right eye and missed the final seven regular-season games and the playoffs this year, it is also true he has missed only 29 regular-season games over the past eight years.
Malone averaged 23.8 points per game last season (seventh best in the league) and 11.8 rebounds per game (fourth best in the league). As one of the Bullets, he'll face the 76ers six times during the regular season. For the man of big numbers, surely these will be big games.