Karl Malone always played the game hard. He fought for everything he got during his 19-year NBA career with the Utah Jazz. Malone was a 14-time NBA All-Star and twice was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Had he played every game against the Dallas Mavericks, Malone may have won the MVP every season.
Karl Malone’s Hall-of-Fame career
Karl Malone waited a little bit longer than he had hoped for during the 1985 NBA draft. The 6-foot-9 power forward played his college ball at Louisiana Tech, not known for its basketball prowess. His numbers were good, but the level of competition may have left some NBA scouts with some doubts about how good he really was.
Malone was selected by the Utah Jazz with the 13th overall pick in 1985. Many, including Malone himself, believed he should’ve been selected higher and his NBA success has proven that to be true. Whether he was playing with a chip on his shoulder or not, Malone went on to average 25 points and 10.1 rebounds per game during his 19 seasons in the league.
Known as ‘The Mailman’ because he always delivered, Malone teamed up with John Stockton to make arguably the best point guard/power forward tandem in NBA history. Statistically, Malone’s best season came during the 1989-90 season when he averaged 31 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
The 1985 NBA draft
It was no secret that Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing was going to be the top selection in the 1985 NBA draft. The New York Knicks had the No. 1 pick and made the Georgetown center their first pick. The draft was loaded with big men from the 1984 Olympic team, including John Koncack and Joe Kleine, who were chosen with the fifth and sixth picks, respectively.
Meanwhile, Karl Malone was still sitting there waiting to be drafted. Wayman Tisdale (No. 2), Benoit Benjamin (No. 3), and Xavier McDaniel (No. 4) were other big men already drafted, so Malone was gearing up for hearing his name called. With the seventh pick, the Golden State Warriors took St. John’s forward Chris Mullin. Malone then thought he would be taken next.
At No. 8, the Dallas Mavericks went the overseas route and selected Detlef Schrempf. After Schrempf, more big men followed. Charles Oakley went ninth, Ed Pinckney 10th, Keith Lee 11th, and then small forward Kenny Green went at No. 12 to the Washington Bullets. The wait was finally over for Malone when the Jazz called his name with the 13th pick.
Malone thought he was going to the Dallas Mavericks
In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2015, Karl Malone said he felt so sure he was going to be drafted by the Dallas Mavericks that he had already moved there. “I was so sure that the Dallas Mavericks were going to draft me, because I went out there to visit them at least 10 times, enough that I moved out there and didn’t want to come to New York,” Malone said.
Malone wanted to pay them back for passing on him and he held a grudge throughout his career because he felt they lied to him. “And then I’m sitting in the green room and they don’t pick me,” Malone said. “I will admit, and I’ve shied away from it a little bit, I went after the Dallas Mavericks hard all the time. I was strictly there to kick their ass because they lied to me. So every time I played the Dallas Mavericks, I looked to kick their ass over and over.”
Although Detlef Schrempf went on to have a very successful career in the NBA, he wasn’t what Karl Malone was. The Jazz were the ones who took the chance on him and it paid off.