Malone: 'You will not see me play again'
SALT LAKE CITY -- As much as Karl Malone wanted to win an NBA title, he just didn't have the desire to play a 20th season.
Malone officially announced his retirement Sunday, ending his career where it started when the Utah Jazz selected him with the 13th pick in the 1985 draft.
"Even though I left for a year, I grew here as a Jazz man," Malone said at a news conference at the Delta Center. "If I'm fortunate enough to go into the Hall of Fame, I will go as a Jazz man."
The 41-year-old finishes second on the NBA's career scoring list with 36,928 points, just 1,459 behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Malone met with the San Antonio Spurs last week and was considering a return, hoping for one more chance at a championship ring, but he decided that mentally he couldn't play at the level that made him one of the best ever in the league.
Malone had knee surgery last summer and said he was fully recovered from the injury that forced him to miss half of last season. But his mind wasn't up to returning to basketball.
"When I got on that plane, I knew I was done. That it was time," Malone said. "I look at basketball as 100 percent physically and 100 percent mentally. And if I can't bring you 200 percent, from me, I can't bring you anything."
Malone said he wanted to keep from getting too emotional, and he succeeded -- even when recalling Utah's glory days of the 1990s. Sitting on platform with his wife, Kay, Jazz owner Larry Miller and coach Jerry Sloan, Malone thanked the Jazz for picking him after 12 teams had passed.
An avid outdoorsman, Malone sported a cowboy hat and T-shirt. He still looked to be in great shape, showing that he hasn't let up on the relentless workouts that allowed him to play into his 40s.
The news conference was packed with reporters, some fans and a few former teammates who came to say goodbye to the certain Hall of Famer.
Malone was the league's MVP in 1997 and '99. One of the most durable players ever, Malone is also second only to Abdul-Jabbar's 57,446 minutes played with 54,852. Malone's 14,968 rebounds rank him sixth all-time and he was also a 14-time All-Star selection, winning the game MVP in 1989 and sharing it with longtime teammate John Stockton in 1993.
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"I had great players in Karl Malone and John Stockton, so I was very lucky," Sloan said. "I said all along when I had them. You don't find this every day. And you know what? There was a great deal of jealousy that people had of those guys because of that."
Malone also won gold medals with the U.S. Olympic teams of 1992 and 1996. About the only thing missing in his career is a title ring, which he missed out on in three trips to the NBA Finals. Malone and Stockton led the Jazz to the 1997 and '98 Finals, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls each time.
So Malone, whose nickname was the Mailman, ends his career without a ring and without a chance to catch Abdul-Jabbar, which he said was never really a goal.
"I wanted a championship. I'm not going to lie to you. That was my ultimate goal, but that was a team goal. That wasn't an individual goal," he said. "I will say that the two years we made it to the Finals with the Jazz, that was the funnest years I had playing ball."
Malone said he chose Sunday to honor his mother, Shirley Jackson Malone, who died in August 2003. He said she would have turned 67 on Sunday.
Malone teamed with Stockton for 18 seasons with Utah, forming one of the NBA's greatest duos. Malone said Stockton, who retired in 2003 as the NBA's career leader in assists and steals, was one of the first people he called last week to say he was finished.
Malone was close to retiring last summer but decided to wait until he was fully recovered from the knee surgery before making up his mind. And he said Sunday that there would be no changing it.
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"When I said I retired from basketball playing, I have retired. You will not see me play again. That is a promise," he said. "There will be no unbelievable comebacks. Seen that, didn't like that. Won't do that."
Malone was so anxious to thank Miller, Sloan and former teammates over his 19 years that he forgot to make the announcement. Miller had to prompt him a few minutes into the news conference to say why he was there.
It wasn't a surprise. The Jazz sent a release Friday saying Malone's retirement news conference would be Sunday.
Miller, who had many very public run-ins with Malone over the years, said the overall experience of having Malone lead the team for so long was well worth the headaches.
"The good outweighed the bad remarkably," said Miller, who paused several times to collect himself during his remarks.
Bronze sculptures of Stockton and Malone are in the works and will stand outside the arena. Stockton's No. 12 was retired in November and Malone's No. 32 will follow next season.
Always outspoken, Malone criticized some of the current Jazz players for not playing hard enough. The team is struggling and was 17-33 on Sunday.
And Malone offered no apologies for the criticism or for any remarks that may have offended somebody in his career. And there were plenty.
"People that was around Karl Malone knew at the end of the day what they had," Malone said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press