One of the greatest NBA players in league history — who potentially doesn’t get talked about enough — is Moses Malone. He ultimately became a Hall of Famer and was consistently one of the best players in the league with teams like the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. What made Malone so interesting, though, was how he became so good at his job. He didn’t go to college, as he was good enough at a young age to go straight to the pros out of high school, so how did he become so dominant? Malone actually improved his game in prison, by scrimmaging people like the “Milkman.”
Moses Malone was a great NBA player at a young age
Moses Malone was such a talented high school basketball player that he went straight to the pros and skipped college. According to NBC Sports, the Utah Stars of the ABA ultimately recruited Malone away from the University of Maryland.
Malone had success in the ABA immediately, too. He earned an All-Star selection in his first season, and averaged 18.8 points per game and 14.6 rebounds.
Malone then only played in 43 games in 1975-76, and his numbers then went down a bit in his first NBA season in 1976-77. However, in 1977-78 — at only 22 years old — Malone became one of the best players in the NBA and he didn’t turn back, recording 19.4 points per game and 15 rebounds that year. He also earned his first of 12 consecutive All-Star selections.
So, what made Malone so successful at a young age? It was his decision to scrimmage against inmates in prison.
He scrimmaged against inmates in prison
According to NBC Sports, Malone was too good in high school. This meant that no one in his area was any competition for him. Of course, back then, there weren’t any camps or tournaments to play in, either. So, Malone improved his game by going to prison. He was actually allowed to visit a state penitentiary and play the inmates who were there.
It was ultimately where he learned how to play a more aggressive style of ball, too. However, Malone played against some terrifying criminals.
Lefty Driesell, who almost brought Malone to the University of Maryland when he coached at the school, said that he talked to Malone about the prison games. When learning about them, Driesell asked if they had anyone in there who was Malone’s size, as Malone was 6 feet, 10 inches tall.
“One guy about 6-8. They call him Milkman,” Malone said, according to Driesell’s interview with The Washington Post, per NBC Sports.
So, why did they call him Milkman?
“Cause he murdered a milkman, man,” Driesell recalled Malone saying.
Well, that sounds terrifying. If that doesn’t show you Malone’s toughness, nothing ever will.
As frightening as they may have been, Moses Malone’s pickup games in prison ultimately helped him become an all-time great in the NBA.
Moses Malone became an all-time great NBA player
Moses Malone’s NBA career helped him become a Hall of Famer as he earned 13 All-Star selections (one in the ABA), won the NBA MVP award three times, led the NBA in rebounds per game six times, and won an NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. What’s remarkable about that championship, though, was that he won the Finals MVP award, despite playing on the same team as Julius Erving and Andrew Toney.
Malone also had some incredible seasons in his career, as he averaged 31.1 points per game and 14.7 rebounds in 1981-82. He ended up finishing his professional career by averaging 20.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds.
Additionally, his 29,580 career points are ninth in NBA/ABA history, and his 17,834 rebounds are third.
The numbers prove that Moses Malone was a stellar basketball player. His legendary career all started by playing inmates in prison, too.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference