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Moses Malone made a living as one of the fiercest rebounders in NBA history. When it came to rebounding, especially on the offensive end, there was nobody better than the former Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets star center. The 13-time NBA All-Star is far and away the all-time leader in offensive boards. While Malone was ferocious on the floor, bullying his way through the game, he was vastly different off the court.

Who needs college? Moses Malone was the first to go straight to the pros from high school

Moses Malone of the Philadelphia 76ers in action against the Milwaukee Bucks during an NBA game circa 1985 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

According to Sports Illustrated, Malone was the most sought-after high school basketball prospect since Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). A 6-foot-10 physical specimen, Malone played his high school ball at Petersburg High School in Virginia, where he won consecutive state titles in his final two seasons. He didn’t lose a game in that stretch.

Malone could pick the college of his choice. Maryland eventually won out. In the end, however, Malone decided to bypass college and turn pro.

The Utah Stars of the ABA selected him in the third round of the 1974 ABA Draft and offered him a five-year deal worth $1 million. Without attending college, Malone carried the “dumb jock” label with him into the NBA. He was referred to as “Mumbles” by a Salt Lake City disc jockey for the way he talked. Even his lawyers tried to get him to take speech classes. Malone couldn’t be bothered. Who needs to talk when you can dominate on the basketball court?

He spent two years with the Stars before the team folded. He was sold to the Spirits of St. Louis and finished the season. The following year, the ABA and NBA merged. The Portland Trail Blazers selected Malone with the fifth pick in the 1976 ABA Dispersal Draft but traded him to the Buffalo Braves. He played two games for the Braves before they sent him to the Houston Rockets.  

Malone had a far different demeanor off the basketball court


Moses Malone Made the Philadelphia 76ers Instant Champions, Bringing Them ‘Back to Being Goliath’

While Malone was aggressive on the floor and struck fear into his opponents, he was quite the opposite when the game was over. The man who owns an NBA-best 6,731 offensive boards in his career (Robert Parish is second with 4,598) and was a three-time MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star was mild-mannered away from the game. In fact, he was shy and often kept to himself.

“I sit around, watch the scene, be quiet,” he said to Sports Illustrated in 1979. “I don’t run my mouth off.”

Malone was often misunderstood because of those off-the-court actions.

“He likes to do his job and go off by himself, just be alone and play his music,” said Pro Hayes, an assistant coach at Petersburg High School and a father figure to Malone. “And people misunderstood. They would decide he was ignorant or arrogant. But they were wrong.

“When he started to consider the pros, I was concerned for him. I was afraid that if he was defeated then, he could be destroyed. And so much more has happened than we ever feared — his team folding, then the league, being traded all around, so much — and he’s still Moses. The same Moses. He’s not Billy Showboat. No, sir. You see, Moses had a lot more faith in himself than we did.”

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and is a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. Malone died in 2015 at age 60.