Karl Malone HOF Week: Special Delivery

August 10th, 2010 | by Spencer Hall

By Jefferson W. Boswell
Special to Salt City Hoops

Many NBA players engage in a ritual when they step up to the charity stripe. Jason Kidd, for example, used to blow a kiss to his wife and kids (since a nasty divorce, his routine has obviously changed a little). We all remember Jeff Hornacek wiping the side of his face – his own tribute to his family. But then there was the Mailman. He would dribble the ball a couple times, spin it in his hands, and then mutter a few words. With a gentle push and a mild arc, the cowhide globe would hit home – at career rate of just under 75%, (to amalgamate Hot Rod and David Locke). No one really knew what he was saying up there….except for my Grandma.

In the late 1990’s, the Mailman was at the peak of his career. Two MVP awards, two NBA finals appearances, All-NBA, All-Defensive, All- Everything. My Grandma, on the other hand, was in the twilight of her life. She had been a widow for a decade. Although she could hardly see, she would park herself in her recliner, only feet away from her big screen television, and cheer for the Jazz with all of her might. Unlike her beloved Jazz, there was no off-season for her to take a vacation from the countless doctor’s visits and endless prescriptions.

As so often happens for those fortunate to live as long as she did, she lost her balance, fell, and broke her hip. After surgery and a long recovery, she was instructed to undergo physical therapy. During a particularly brutal session of physical therapy, she was resting in her wheelchair – when in walks none other than the Mailman – Karl Malone in the flesh. Just seeing him caused her heart to skip a beat (dangerous for a woman in her 80s).

The therapist said, “Come meet one of your biggest fans, Karl.”

I can almost see my Grandma nearly fall out of her wheelchair and melt like a Popsicle. After introductions and exchanging pleasantries, my Grandma, Alene Boswell, asked the question that had captivated Utah for a decade.

“Karl, what exactly do you say when you are up there taking your foul shots?”

With a smile and a wink, he said, “I’m talking to you up there, Alene. I say, ‘Come on now, Alene, don’t let me down.'”

Even though her health deteriorated and she eventually lost most of her memories, that story was never far from her lips. She passed away on Mother’s Day in 2000 (and never had to see her beloved Mailman in a Lakers jersey).

Karl Malone recently told KSL’s Rod Zundel, when asked if he’d have changed anything in his career, that he wished he would have “done more in the community.” From my perspective, you did just fine, Karl. Congratulations on entering the Basketball Hall of Fame this week. You’ve been in the humanity Hall of Fame for a while now.

Jefferson Boswell will be a regular contributor to Salt City Hoops. He can be reached at jeffersonboz [at ] gmail [dot] com

Spencer Hall
Founder Spencer Hall has covered the NBA, Team USA and NBA D-League since 2007 and launched Salt City Hoops in 2009. Spencer is now the news director at KSL.com
Spencer Hall
Spencer Hall

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  1. Amy says:

    What a great story….I knew “Grandma” and how honored she would be that you wrote this about the two of them! Will for sure follow this Boswell guy on your site!! Great addition!

  2. Bazza says:

    or maybe he was saying the names of all his kids he had with minors nice and quiet so no one could hear him.

    humanity hall of fall. gimme a break, he should have served time for statutory rape, never mind denying the existence of his daughter.

    this guy was/is a hillbilly tiger woods.

  3. Harold says:

    I’ve been a Jazz fan my whole life and my earliest Jazz memories are of cheering for a very young and very raw Karl Malone. He was a hell of a basketball player but to say he belongs in the “humanity hall of fame” is quite the stretch.

    The fact that he said some nice words to an elderly woman at the hospital in what was likely a team-arranged function doesn’t quite put him in the same category as guys like Greg Mortenson or Bill Gates. It doesn’t even put him in the same category as Deron Williams, who does a fair amount of charity work in the SL valley.

    Let’s try to keep things in perspective.

    • Yeah, the “Humanity Hall of Fame” might be a bit of a stretch. However, though I can’t speak for Jefferson, I believe he purposely didn’t write Humanitarian Hall of Fame (though Malone has done a lot of great things on that front too). The very definition of humanity is to embody the qualities of being human, and that is the very thing that always made following Malone so interesting and infuriating. Like Larry Miller, Malone has allowed us to watch his progress in a very public way. He would probably be the first person to admit his many mistakes, but that’s part of the human theater of sports.

  4. Josh says:

    it is unfortunate that you feel that way. The great thing about Karl Malone was that he did his charity work (mostly) behind closed doors away from the media. I do not know about his extramarital affairs, but I do know that Malone is definitely in the “Humanity Hall of Fame”.

    He visited countless people in many hospitals without anyone directing him or knowing what he was doing.

    Bringing up Greg Mortenson or Bill Gates shows how naive you are. Those two do all of their work for humanity right in public view. It speaks volumes of a person if they do that work without anyone knowing about it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a benefit to advertise your charity work. It helps remind others to do the same. BUT do not judge others of not doing the same thing when you clearly do not know.

  5. Jefferson says:

    Look, Karl Malone gonna do what Karl Malone gonna do. Of course he has skeletons in his closet – as do most professional athletes (as well as the majority of the population). That being said, the two things that stand out about the Mailman:
    (1) He was ready, willing, and able whenever the whistle blew. There was never any doubt that he would come back from his summer break ready to play; and
    (2) The Mailman always spoke his mind – more than a little blunt (and usually in third person). He was supremely human, compassionate, and sympathetic. In a world where most people care only about themselves, I think he demonstrated the ability to look to others.

    Perhaps he does not belong in the same discussion as Gandhi and Mother Teresa, but I believe that Karl Malone is and was a decent guy.

  6. Ryan says:

    @Harold, See Josh’s comment.

    Karl did more selfless acts to help people out than any of us can ever dream of doing. So many of these things we will never know about. Karl didn’t do them for publicity, and he didn’t help people because he had to. He does it because he genuinely cares about people. Here are just a couple stories that did find their way into the newspaper.

    After Hurricane Katrina, Karl told FEMA to get out of his way so he could help the victims.
    http://www.usatoday .com/news/nation/200 5-09-29-malone-katri na_x.htm

    Karl helping the Samoan tsunami victims.
    http://www.rustonle ader.com/sports.php? id=6117

    If you ask around North Louisiana, you’ll hear so many great stories. Yeah, he made some poor decisions when he was younger, but who didn’t? Karl learned from his mistakes, and Karl is a great humanitarian. Karl is a big man with a big heart.

  7. Ryan says:

    This email got forwarded around Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina:

    the mailman delivered today, bigtime.

    we had the malone family with us almost all day long at the shelter. they arrived – karl, his stunning wife (she looks like a grown-up tyra), their four enormously courteous and well-behaved children, and a former wnba player who now works for malone – early, dressed in exactly the same sort of working clothes as the rest of us – and went to work.

    after the hurricane, malone contacted some of his utah connections and asked that a drive be held in salt lake city to collect supplies for his home folks, telling them that we had been abandoned by the red cross. the result was something over three tractor-trailer loads of donated goods of all sorts: food, newly-purchased children’s clothing and shoes, water, medical supplies, diapers, baby formula, school supplies, lots and lots and LOTS of everything. when the drive was nearly finished, malone sent three or four of his own 18 wheelers to utah to fetch the goods.

    today the goods arrived, and the malones were there with the rest of us, working and doing this and that while we awaited the trucks. there is always plenty to do, and they were as willing as anyone. i heard mrs malone cautioning the children about waiting until every single evacuee had eaten before thinking of getting into line themselves. “we can eat anytime,” she said, “we want to make sure these people get every bite of food they need or want.” (all of the malone children, it should be noted, look as if they could put away a serious amount of groceries).

    malone brought his own forklift and himself unloaded the trucks, moving the huge boxes ten at a time to pallets laid out by volunteers along the ground behind the shelter. then, box by box, the goods were brought into the shelter, and the unpacking and sorting began. he can drive a forklift as well as he ever played defense, and with considerably less danger to anyone’s life and limb.

    the locals did not make a huge issue of his celebrity, in part because they were all too tired and busy, in part because of the unobtrusive manner in which malone himself, along with his wife, handled their presence there. it was funny, when i had time to notice, to see the reactions of some of our evacuees; they were unaware of the whole thing until he arrived (through the back door, very quietly), and he is, after all, difficult to miss. he suddenly was just there, the room now holding seven additional people, one the largest in the room, one the most beautiful. the heads would swivel and then swivel again. even in dire straits, most of them recognized him. “what in the world is karl malone doing here?” an obviously overwhelmed sportsfan from arabi asked me. “he’s from here,” i said, “just like the rest of us.”

  8. Ryan says:

    Karl has delivered so much to our rural communities in North Louisiana. He’s a regular at 3 Boys and Girls Clubs: Northeast LA, North Central LA, and Claiborne Parish. Karl speaks to youth groups at local churches. He has 20 season tickets to Louisiana Tech football and basketball games and gives most of his tickets away to kids whose parents can’t afford them. He started a timber company for his son Daryl Ford, Cheryl’s twin brother. Karl built a Huddle House in Farmerville for an old friend to manage after he had lost his job, and it also serves as a stop for his truckers as the HH is the only 24 hour restaurant in the parish. He’s building restaurants and small shopping centers to help create jobs and to boost our economy in Ruston. He still does manual labor for his son Daryl’s timber company, and he thinned out the timber and cleared lots for a neighborhood in Choudrant. Karl is a volunteer deputy in Claiborne and Union Parishes because he wants to enforce the seat belt law and crack down on drug trafficking through the region. He also donated 2 $12,000 crime dogs to the Union Parish Police Department. He’s made countless contributions to Louisiana Tech including installing a new basketball court and furnishing a new weight room. He bought some land in Union Parish to build a hunting lodge and paid the family 4x more than their asking price. Word gets around in our small towns, and Karl’s “word” is altruism.

  9. Ryan says:

    Karl donates $100,000 to Claiborne Boys and Girls Club.


    “Put your money where your mouth is”….a statement that has been used many times over the years to prove you believe so strongly in what you say you are willing to back it up with your money. That is exactly what Karl Malone did. When he spoke to members of the Claiborne Chamber of Commerce in January, he issued a challenge for business owners to give something back, to invest their money in their community.

    Last week, Malone was guest speaker at an event sponsored by the Haynesville Community Improvement Association to honor the Claiborne Boys & Girls Club. As the Club Director Ron Anderson told of plans to improve the facilities and add things that would attract more teens. A. D. Williams, director of the Haynesville Housing Authority and School Board member, was sitting beside Malone and remarked how difficult it would be to raise needed funds. Malone scribbled a note and passed it to Williams, authorizing him to make an announcement. The note read, “I am giving the Claiborne Boys and Girls Clubs in Homer and Haynesville $100,000.”

    “It costs approximately $1,175.00 per year to serve one child. The incarceration cost for one youth for a year is $126,780.00. It is obvious that donation to our services is not only an investment, but an opportunity to improve the community one youth at a time,” Anderson said.

    Designated space will be set aside for teens at both Homer and Haynesville. Centers will be equipped with laptop computers, wireless internet access, video games, pool and foosball tables, as well as educational games and activities. All age children will have access to the center on a rotating basis under constant supervision by their staff of eleven employees.

    A much-needed fenced play area will be provided at Haynesville which will include a basketball court. Although the Clubs are presently open from 3-7 PM Monday – Friday, Anderson said they were considering opening Teen Centers on Friday and Saturday nights as well.

    Anderson said, “Karl Malone has propelled the Boys & Girls Clubs of Claiborne to the next level of service. Our youth will prosper, and we are going to continue to challenge then to show their appreciation by striving to do and be their best.”

    Teens interested in joining must be in regular attendance at school. They will need to fill out a parental consent form which is available at either Club and pay the annual membership fee of $10.

  10. To be great is to be misunderstood.

    Sent from my iPhone 4G

  11. Lori E says:

    I have been a fan for years all the way from Canada. I would travel to the US to watch him play when the team would come closer to us.
    I respect him as an athlete showing up each season in playing shape (coming from the area where we had Big Country Reeves on our team showing up looking like he was living in a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop in the off season).
    Karl took a cut in pay so the team could have Ostertag on board. He and John Stockton were the best combination ever. Team players.
    I love to hear about his charitable endeavors and do understand that he has done some things that are not to be admired.
    However we have to look at a person as a whole and not just one event…otherwise all of us would be looking pretty bad right now wouldn’t we.
    You rock Karl and I only wish I had started following basketball back in the day when you were wearing short shorts. Lol.

    • Margaret (Maggy) Tutwailer says:

      I surely missed the cut in play. I have never heard that before. Maybe that is why he couldn’t
      afford $125 per week for Demetrius.

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