The name Moses Malone has been uttered more than usual as of late, and with good reason. After scoring 27 points on Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is just 39 points away from passing Malone to become the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history. Kevin Love, after his 20 point, 21 rebound performance against the Washington Wizards last night, now has 50 consecutive double-doubles — just one away from the record of 51, also set by Malone.
Malone, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, played 19 NBA seasons (after starting his career with two seasons in the ABA) and averaged 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds. His best season came in 1983 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers when he averaged 24.5 points, 15.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots, and won both the regular season MVP and the NBA Finals MVP awards. The Sixers won the title that year, which is also known as the infamous Fo Fo Fo playoffs (Malone predicted the Sixers would sweep the playoffs with four victories in each series. They lost one game in the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, and then swept the Magic, Kareem and the Los Angeles Lakers for the title).
From 1986 to 1988 Malone had two All-Star years for the Washington Bullets. He and Jeff Malone (no relation) led the Bullets to two consecutive playoff appearances (both first round losses).
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis, currently instructing Kevin Love, and previously serving as both an assistant and a head coach to Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, had numerous battles against Malone when he was a player (in their 14 head-to-head match-ups, Rambis won eight and averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds off the bench, while Malone won six and averaged 19.6 points and 10.5 rebounds as a starter). Saturday night, I asked Rambis to reminisce on the greatness of Malone and what it was like to play against him:
Love, the man poised to break Malone’s double-double record, had a strong night numbers-wise, but late in the game struggled to keep Washington Wizards forward Trevor Booker off the the glass. Booker, who came into the game suffering from a stomach virus, provided a shot of energy to the Wizards by taking a pass from Cartier Martin for a dunk that gave Washington the lead for good at 86-85 with 5:24 to go in the fourth quarter. A couple possessions later, one after a Love turnover and one after a Luke Ridnour turnover, Booker gave his team more of a cushion with consecutive monster one-hand, put-back dunks to extend Washington’s lead to 90-85. Minnesota never recovered and the Wizards won 103-96. Booker finished with seven points and three rebounds in the fourth quarter (he totaled seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes on the night).
After the game, Love reflected a bit on his play, but he focused more on his team’s loss and his failure to contain Booker:
On a humorous note, Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley had a tongue-in-cheek response to Love’s fourth 20-20 game in his last five starts:
“Yeah, it’s kind of normal now. I’m like whatever. Tell me 40-40 and I’ll get excited.”