Karl “The Mailman” Malone is one of the most iconic nicknames in NBA history. “Magic,” “The Answer,” “Dr. J,” and “The Black Mamba” are all classics, but “The Mailman” has a certain uniqueness that sets it above the rest. It’s so simple, but it gets the job done, which perfectly describes Malone’s playing days. Malone was one of the most consistent and reliable NBA players of all time. “The Mailman” always delivered.
The origin of Karl Malone’s nickname, “The Mailman”
Karl Malone‘s iconic nickname actually originated from his collegiate playing days at Louisiana Tech University. The team’s play-by-play announcer dubbed Malone “The Mailman” because he always delivered in the post.
Malone played three seasons at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s. He averaged 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game over his college career.
Malone was one of the smoothest and most efficient scorers in college at the time. He shot over 54 percent from the field in each of his three years. He also delivered Louisiana Tech’s first two NCAA Tournaments berths, and he led the Bulldogs to the Elite Eight in his junior season.
The Utah Jazz chose Malone with the 13th pick of the 1985 NBA draft.
“The Mailman” delivered for 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz
Karl Malone’s consistent play and scoring dominance immediately carried over to the Utah Jazz. Malone was second on the Jazz in scoring in his rookie year at 14.9 points per game. “The Mailman” nickname officially followed him to the NBA.
Malone delivered season after season in Utah as a scorer and rebounder. The Hall of Famer averaged more than 20 points per game in 17 straight seasons after his rookie year. In 1989, Malone played all 82 games and scored 31 points per game.
His consistency was also as remarkable as his scoring ability. Malone played 80 games or more in 17 of his 18 seasons with Utah. He averaged 37.2 minutes per game over his career, putting the load management generation to shame.
Malone’s consistency led him to become the second-leading scorer in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Malone scored 36,928 in 84 fewer games than Abdul-Jabbar. He would’ve had to play just 60 more games averaging his career 25 points per game to pass Abdul-Jabbar.
“The Mailman” doesn’t deliver on Sundays
Malone’s famous nickname came back to bite him in the 1997 NBA Finals. During game one of the Finals against the Chicago Bulls, Malone went to the line in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Scottie Pippen famously walked up to Malone and whispered in his ear, “Remember, The Mailman doesn’t deliver on Sundays.” Malone proceeded to miss both free throws and the Bulls went on to win the game and later the title.
Malone will be remembered for his incredible play in the post, but he’ll be equally remembered for the times he couldn’t deliver in the playoffs for the Jazz. During his career in Utah, Malone led the Jazz to five conference finals. However, they lost three of those series’ and lost in both of their Finals appearances.
As iconic as Malone’s “The Mailman” nickname is, he will never be able to live down the times he couldn’t deliver when the people needed him the most.