'Outstanding,' but ringless, career nears its end

SALT LAKE CITY -- There will be no NBA career scoring record
for Karl Malone. No championship ring, either.

The Mailman is retiring, having come up short in his quest for
both during his 19-year career.

Malone, 41, will announce his retirement Sunday, the Jazz said
Friday. He will hold a news conference at the Delta Center -- the
arena where his 1997 and 1999 league MVP awards are celebrated with signs below the upper deck.

Soon, a giant No. 32 Malone jersey will assuredly hang above the court.

"Even though he never won a championship, he had an outstanding
career," said Jerry Sloan, Malone's coach for 15 of his seasons in
Utah. "He played a lot of times when he shouldn't have. He did
whatever he could to try to win, and I think that kind of thing is
overlooked a lot these days in the game of basketball."

Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, said Malone was "very serious"
about returning to action with the San Antonio Spurs before he
decided to retire.

"I can tell you he's given a tremendous amount of thought to
this decision, but the specific details are best left to him to
make on Sunday," Manley said.

Malone retires with 36,928 points, just 1,459 points behind
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's record 38,387.

He spent all but one of his 19 seasons with the Jazz, signing
with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent before last season. He
made the move so he could make one more run at the ring that eluded
him in trips to the NBA finals in 1997 and '98.

Malone made it to the finals again with the Lakers, but came up
empty. Detroit beat Los Angeles in five games.

Malone teamed with guard John Stockton for 18 seasons with Utah
to form one of the NBA's greatest duos, leading the Jazz to the
finals twice but losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls
each time.

"He had a great career here and did a terrific job for the
Jazz," Sloan said.

Stockton, the NBA's all-time leader in assists and steals,
retired in 2003 after 19 seasons, all with the Jazz.

Malone gave it one more year, joining the Lakers at a greatly
reduced salary before last season in an attempt to win a title by
playing with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. He missed 39 games
during the regular season after injuring his right knee, and was
hurt again during the playoffs. He was limited in Games 3 and 4
against the Pistons and missed Game 5.

"We've had one year with him and everyone in the organization,
from the front office staff, fellow players, coaches, everyone
really enjoyed having Karl around for that year," Lakers spokesman
John Black said. "He was a real addition to our team last year in
helping us get to the NBA playoffs."

Malone opted out of his $1.65 million contract after last
season, making him a free agent. He and his family live in Newport
Beach, Calif. They also have a home in Salt Lake City.

Manley said in October that his client wasn't ready to play but that if he returned, it would only be with the Lakers.

That changed late last year after Malone was accused by Bryant
of making a pass at Bryant's wife. Malone, through Manley, denied
the accusation and apologized to Bryant and his wife for any
remarks she might have considered inappropriate.