Catching Up With Moses Malone

New Page 1 Before the recent exodus of high school players bypassing college and going straight to the NBA, a player jumping from the preps to the pros was an almost unheard of event. The most famous of all before Kevin Garnett re-ignited the trend in the mid-90s was Moses Malone, a Hall-of-Fame center who jumped straight from his high school in Petersburg, VA, to the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974.

A dominant big man from the get-go, Malone would go on to play 21 years in the NBA, finishing his career as a three-time MVP and as the all-time leader in offensive rebounds. Malone played for 7 teams in his time in the league, winning a title with Philadelphia in 1983. He also spent three years in Atlanta with the Hawks (from 1988-1991), helping the team to the playoffs in two of the three years.

Recently we caught up to the always-candid Malone, who currently resides in Sugarland, TX, a suburb of Houston. What are you doing with yourself these days?

Moses Malone: What am I doing? I'm doing nothing, just relaxing and enjoying life. I did 21 years of hard labor in the NBA, invested my money right, so I'm set. I earned the right to relax and enjoy, you know? Do you still follow the league at all?

MM: Yeah, I still watch some. There are a lot of good players. You know when you pay a lot of guys a lot of money, that's the way it should be. Of course some of those guys who are getting paid can't play, but then there are also some guys who can play who aren't getting paid, so I guess it balances out. Anyone playing in the league remind you of yourself?

MM: Well, I'm a big-guy guy. I look at guys like Shaq, Ben Wallace, guys who play inside and play tough. I don't pay much attention to the little guys, I like the big guys who do the dirty work. Often times people mention Amare Stoudemire as a player who reminds them of you.

MM: He's a young aggressive guy and he plays hard. He dunks a lot - he's got a lot of posters, he's put a lot of guys on posters who should be embarrassed for what he's done to them (laughs). He is a great player, and (Steve) Nash has really helped his talent to come out this year. What do you think of the exodus of high school players into the NBA now?

MM: Well, it's all about the money. If you are going to give a kid a three, four-year contract guaranteed, I don't fault them for taking it. But right now the owners are bringing in kids who don't know the game instead of some who do, and that's a problem. If you were a high school senior today, would you repeat your decision to go pro?

MM: If I were a high school senior today, with what I did in high school, they'd be paying me triple what they pay these kids now (laughing). With these kids now, you average 17 points and 12 rebounds, you can be the #1 pick. When I came out I was averaging 39 and 26 with 10 blocked shots! So they'd have to give me more. Your son, Moses Malone, Jr., played Division I college ball. What is he up to nowadays?

MM: He's playing in the ABA in Boston (for the Boston Frenzy) with coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, Kobe's father. My other son, Mike, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, playing wide receiver under Frank Beamer. He just got to go to the Sugar Bowl to play Auburn. Have you followed the Hawks this season?

MM: Yeah, I've seen them some, I still root for them to win. I think Coach Woodson is a good young coach, and I think they have a young nucleus that's only going to improve. They are still learning of course. Any time you have a lot of new players and new coaches, it takes awhile to come together. But they have good coaches who can get in there and teach the game and how to win. It takes time to build things. Clyde Drexler (another Hall-of-Famer) discussed un-retiring earlier this year. Could you still play if you wanted to?

MM: You know, I don't see that many big guys out there right now. I bet if I came out I could still be one of the top five centers in the league - ain't that something? There are just so few centers left! Why do you think that is?

MM: No one wants to take the banging anymore - they don't want that hard work. You got young kids that watch high school kids, the high schoolers watch the college kids, and they watch the pros. Everyone imitates what they see, and there just aren't many guys who want to do the work down there. A center has to do it all. He has to worry about the other center, the forwards, and the guards. The other positions can worry about just their man, but the center has to do all the dirty work.

Throughout the year, will be featuring interviews with former Hawks players. Check back periodically for more articles as the season continues!

Micah Hart is the Assistant Web Editor for the Atlanta Hawks.