As far as sports nicknames go, you’d be hard-pressed to top “The Mailman”. Karl Malone delivered night in and night out for the Utah Jazz, becoming one of the NBA’s greatest scorers. But before the Mailman was driving his way into the record books, he held two previous nicknames that, if still relevant today, would’ve forced fans to see Malone in a far different light.
Karl Malone earned his ‘Mailman’ nickname before debuting with the Utah Jazz
It’s fair to assume Malone’s famous nickname began around the same time he and John Stockton teamed up to form one of the best duos in NBA history. But the origins of the “Mailman” moniker date back to the Hall of Famer’s undergraduate days.
Back when the 6-foot-9 Malone was terrorizing opponents at Louisiana Tech, the Bulldogs announcer coined the nickname because the power forward always delivered. The Louisiana native wound up delivering his school to the NCAA Tournament in 1984, the first time the Bulldogs went dancing.
The deliveries kept coming upon entering the NBA. After the Jazz selected him with the 13th pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, Malone averaged over 20 points by his second season. He would reach that mark for the rest of his days in Utah.
Malone revealed his previous two nicknames
It’s almost impossible to imagine Malone as anything else besides the Mailman. Yet growing up, the 58-year-old had not one, but two nicknames bequeathed to him. And let’s just say … neither one made him look particularly tough or cool.
In a sit-down interview with WWL-TV in New Orleans, the Summerfield, Lousiana native spilled the beans on both of his original nicknames.
“My grandfather called me Noonie,” Malone said. “I got that because my grandfather was a moonshiner. And when he was making his runs, he would give me little bottlecaps. And I would be ‘out to noon.'”
The other nickname is one the decorated power forward is likely glad to see gone. Although he was gracious enough to reveal it anyway.
“One of them was Boo-Boo,” Malone explained. “I didn’t think about a bathroom when I had to boo-boo. That’s where that one came from.”
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Karl Malone goes down as one of the greatest power forwards of all time
Whether you call him Mailman, Noonie, or Boo-Boo, Malone will always be known as one of the NBA’s best power forwards and overall players.
The 19-year veteran racked up 14 All-Star appearances and 14 All-NBA selections. He was named to four All-Defensive teams and secured two MVP Awards in 1997 and 1999. Although his greatest failure was never capturing an NBA championship, Malone remains the second-highest scorer in NBA history with 36,928 points, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Although he did make three NBA Finals appearances, including one with the Los Angeles Lakers in his final season.
A model of consistency and “always delivering”, Malone still ranks sixth in games played, second in minutes played, and second in both field goals and field-goal attempts. Furthermore, he remains the all-time leader in free throws made and attempted.
However you slice it, the Mailman had a spectacular Hall of Fame career and an excellent nickname to boot. Though admittedly, “Boo-Boo” Malone kind of has a nice ring to it.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.