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Moses Malone made the difference for the Philadelphia 76ers. After spending six seasons with the Houston Rockets, the 6-foot-10 center was traded to the Sixers, who were fresh off an NBA Finals berth and fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship round in 1982.

Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had his way with the Philadelphia big men in the series that ended in six games. The teams met up again the following season, and Malone guided Philly to a sweep of the Lakers. During the celebration parade, Malone was shown the ultimate respect by Sixers fans.

Moses Malone won his lone championship in his first year with the 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers center Moses Malone passes against the San Diego Clippers at the Spectrum circa 1983 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
| Focus on Sport via Getty Images.

In his final season with the Rockets, Malone won his second MVP award after averaging 31.1 points and a league-leading 14.7 rebounds. As a restricted free agent in the offseason, Malone signed an offer sheet with Philadelphia. The Rockets matched the offer, but then traded him to the Sixers for Caldwell Jones and a first-round pick.

Malone guided the Sixers to the best record in the league at 65-17 with his tireless efforts on the boards. For the sixth straight year, Malone led the league in offensive rebounds, collecting 445 in 78 games. Malone, however, was much more than a big body in the paint. He had plenty of offensive skills that allowed him to score 24.5 points per game on better than 50% shooting. For good measure, Malone added two blocks per game.

The top-seeded Sixers swept the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals and then faced the Milwaukee Bucks, who were fresh off a sweep of the Boston Celtics. The sixers made quick work of the Bucks, winning the conference finals in five games. The victory set up a rematch of the ’82 Finals against the Lakers.

With Malone in Philadelphia, the Lakers were no match for the 76ers in the ’83 Finals. In the opener, Malone had 27 points and 18 rebounds in a 113-107 win. In Game 2, he collected 24 points and 12 boards in a 103-93 victory. The Sixers then went into LA and dominated Game 3 as Malone had 28 points and 19 rebounds in a convincing 111-94 win. Philly closed out the series with a 115-108 win behind Malone’s 23 rebounds.

Malone got the ultimate respect from some Sixers fans during the 1983 parade


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Nobody worked any harder than Malone. That’s evident by the 6,731 offensive boards he racked up in his NBA career. The closest player to Malone in that department in the NBA is former Boston Celtics center Robert Parish, who finished with 4,598.

Former 76ers general manager Pat Williams recalled how Sixers fans paid the ultimate respect to Malone during the 1983 parade when a dozen or so blue-collar workers held up their hard hats as a tribute to Malone as his float passed by.

“That, to me, summed up Moses,” Williams said in a 2015 New York Times article.

He only has the one championship, but he has everything else to be considered one of the all-time greats. Malone was a 12-time NBA All-Star and a three-time MVP. He’s a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Malone, who died in 2015, might be one of the most underrated players in NBA history. Rarely, if ever, does his name come up when discussing the all-time greats. Ask anyone to name their top 10 players of all-time, and it’s unlikely Malone will be mentioned. He deserves to be there. He might not get the love he deserves, but raising those hard hats says a lot about Malone.