Karl Malone is one of the poster children of what it means to be an NBA iron man. He played 19 years in the NBA, and save for his final season, barely missed any games. Because of this, Malone holds several career records in the NBA, but his free throw record might encompass what he was about the most.
Malone was a special player, and from his first game to his last he had defenses panicking and wondering what they could do to contain him.
Karl Malone’s career
Malone spent 18 of his 19 seasons in the NBA with the Utah Jazz. There, along with point guard John Stockton, he was part of one of the most accomplished duos in NBA history never win an NBA Championship. Built like a tank, Malone was able to utilize his size and skill to become an absolute nightmare for other teams to guard.
Malone played into his forties, but until his lone year with the Lakers in 2004, he never showed too many signs of poor aging. He only averaged less than 20 points per game once as a member of the Jazz and did so as a rookie. During his prime years, he was a walking double-double, although even in his later years, he only grabbed less than eight rebounds a game once.
Malone could pound it down low, get dirty on defense, and even do a little bit of shooting. He might not have been the absolute best at one thing in the NBA, but he was among the best in several aspects, and the Jazz were perennial contenders thanks to his leadership next to Stockton.
Malone was a two-time MVP and appeared in three different NBA Finals. He was the Rookie of the year in 1986, and he made it to the All-Star game 14 times in 18 years. He could defend with the best players in the NBA while also punishing the other top defenders. His free throw record, however, shows just how dangerous he was.
Karl Malone’s free throw record
36,928 points, 14,968 rebounds, 1,476 games played, 54,852 minutes, 13,528 field goals, Malone’s career totals across the board are downright insane. In a sport where even the best players are lucky to have a decade of dominance, Malone was dominant for nearly two decades.
This is why his free throw record is so impressive. Those who saw him play remember Malone talking to himself before free throws, but his method got results.
Malone was fouled a lot. Not only was this a testament to some less-than-accidental flopping, but a testament to the way he played. He was dominant through and through, and while many of the free throws did come from his flopping, a vast majority simply came because there was no other choice but to foul him if teams wanted to stop his defense.
Malone made 9,787 free throws throughout his career. That impressive number is 1,256 more than any other player in NBA history. Unlike Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain, he was not getting there because he couldn’t make it, either. Malone was a 74-percent shooter for his career. His relentless style and larger-than-life build simply meant teams had to play him physically if they wanted to succeed, and even then, they often didn’t.
Who came up behind him?
It should come to no surprise that the other players on the list of most free throws are legends in their own rights. Moses Malone came in second, with 8,531 for his career, while Kobe Bryant, whose career lasted two-decades, was just behind Moses with 8,378. Oscar Robertson and LeBron James, who both defined the NBA with their all-encompassing talent, came in fourth and fifth with 7,694 for Robertson and 7,379 and counting for James.
The best players often have a knack for getting to the line and forcing teams to play them honestly. By leading the pack, Malone showed that he was able to do so (and capitalize) in a way that nobody else has been able to come close to doing. For that, it might be his most impressive feat and a testament to everything else that made him great.