Moses Malone spent five seasons of his 21-year NBA and ABA career with the Philadelphia 76ers. He helped Philadelphia to its most recent NBA championship in 1983, then returned for a one-year run in the 1993-94 season. Nicknamed “Chairman of the Boards,” his rough-and-tumble play in the paint endeared him to a city that has long felt rough-and-tumble itself.
“He was hard-working, he was selfless. All he wanted to do was punch that clock, go out there and do his job and go home,” Aaron McKie, a former Philadelphia teammate, told local NPR affiliate WHYY.
But honoring Malone wasn’t exactly a quick process. And in the WHYY report, Chris Heck, who took over as the team’s president in 2013, recalled a phone call he had with the Hall of Famer about how the team wanted to retire his number.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Heck remembers Malone saying.
Malone finally relented, though, but not before making a request before his death in 2015.
The Sixers could retire his No. 2, he said, only if the name of each of his teammates from his time in Philadelphia was on the banner.
So Friday night, during halftime against the Nuggets, the team raised a 10-by-15-foot banner honoring Malone with the names of each of his teammates — almost 50 people — printed along the outside of a red, white and blue frame.
(The Athletic has a comprehensive look at the team’s efforts, which you can find here.)
“I don’t think I’ve heard anyone ever do it ever — in any sport,” Heck said.
Earlier Friday, the team also unveiled a statue of Malone on “Legends Walk” in front of their practice facility in Camden, N.J.
Philadelphia entered Friday night’s game in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Led by Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the 76ers acquired veteran forward and scorer Tobias Harris ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
“Everything happens for a reason, and I think the time of us honoring Moses may be more appropriate than ever with the current team that we have on this court,” Heck said. “Maybe this is just the little piece of extra motivation that helps bond the team together to grow and be a champion one day.”
(Hat tip to WHYY. Listen to the station’s story here.)
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