No player in NBA history benefits more from a passing day than Karl Malone.
The reason for that is simply because it’s hard to find a player in league history who put up better counting stats over the course of their career. Second on the all-time scoring list, eighth on the rebounding list and number one in free throws, the Mailman was dominant throughout his illustrious career.
That is, he was dominant in the regular season.
Unfortunately for Malone, his career is mired in what ifs, question marks and blown opportunities. For the duration of Malone’s career, the Jazz averaged a three seed in the Western Conference and yet somehow came away with only two appearances in the finals.
It gets worse.
Outside of those two finals opportunities in which they were the one seed, Utah never achieved another one seed. Meaning, for a team that had two all-time legends like Malone and John Stockton throughout their entire primes, they never pulled off a real upset in their entire careers.
This is a huge part of what makes analyzing their careers so fascinating and frustrating. If the only time they were favoured, they made the finals and lost to MJ’s Bulls, how can I really blame Malone for not achieving more?
The answer is actually pretty simple.
Malone is the only player in the top 12 in scoring to not have a ring. He and Stockton are the only ones in the top 11 of win shares to not have a title and in the top 12 of MVP shares all-time, guess who the only without a title is?
Could you chalk it up to dumb luck or maybe playing in a brutally difficult era, I guess. But here’s the thing, if you’re consistently the only one on a list maybe the problem is you.
Like if you’re the only kid in your class who fails, is that a difficult teacher problem or is that just simply your problem?
Karl Malone was great, he’s on this list for a reason. However, to think I would reward someone any higher on this list than 25 as a guy who came up small time and again when it mattered most, proves one thing: you clearly don’t know me very well.
His stats literally across the board are worse in the playoffs and worse even still on the road in the playoffs so silly me for thinking that when the games matter most, that’s when the best players should carry through.
Call me crazy but I’d rather have a guy who’s showing up to play in the finals with consistency over the guy who dominates in Memphis on a Wednesday in January.
He had an all-time coach, an all-time duo member and played in one of the most difficult arenas to win on the road. There is no legitimate reason for Karl Malone not achieving more other than himself.
The fact a guy like Tim Duncan is unanimously better than a player with every physical gift imaginable should tell you everything you need to know about Malone. You can state everything that went against Malone as an argument for something that went against Duncan in his career.
Brutal era, played a top two player in the finals on multiple occasions and yet still, Duncan managed five titles and Malone couldn’t even muster up one.
He deserves to be on this list and deserves the recognition as an all-time great but let’s not pretend like Malone did anything less than come up short when it mattered most. But hey, at least he’s got the counting numbers.
Those will only look better with age.