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Greatest Players in NBA History: Karl Malone

In this section of the Lab I pick one of the top players in NBA history as voted on in this project and discuss some of his career accomplishments…in other words, what made him so great that he deserves a spot among the greatest? This week’s player is Karl Malone, one of the greatest iron men that the game has ever seen.  In the 1980s and 90s there was a strong sentiment that Malone was the greatest power forward of all time, with a combination of power and scoring skill that revolutionized the position.  Before Malone, Charles Barkley and Kevin Mchale, the power forward position was often an enforcer/garbage-man type.  Malone's dominance at the position helped to usher in the time of power forward as a glamour position, leading directly to the ridiculous boom of elite PFs in the 2000s.

Malone was an excellent scorer, a very strong rebounder, and an underrated man-to-man defender.  He was physically intimidating, with a reputation for throwing around elbows and knocking out teeth that kept him from often being challenged in the paint.  He worked the pick-and-roll to perfection with running mate John Stockton for 15 years.  But perhaps the most amazing thing about Malone was that he NEVER got hurt.  In his first 18 years in the NBA, he never missed more than two games in any season.  That was part of how he earned the nickname "The Mailman"...no matter what, he was going to be there to deliver every day.  This longevity was a key tenet of Malone's greatness and is a big reason why he made this GOAT list.  You can check out Malone's box score stats and accolades on his basketball-reference profile, but here are some facts that stand out to me.

1) Malone is second on the NBA All-time scoring list with 36,928 points, almost 5000 points ahead of Michael Jordan for third place.  Malone is also sixth all-time in rebounds, second in minutes played, and tenth in steals.

2) Malone is one of only 12 players in NBA history to win multiple Most Valuable Player awards, and is seventh all-time in MVP award shares

3)  Malone made the All NBA first team 11 times in his career, the most of any player in NBA history.

4) While Malone is known for his scoring exploits, he also made the NBA All Defensive Team four times in his career, including three first team selections.

The only hole on Malone's resume is the NBA championship that he was never able to win, which is a black mark for a GOAT candidate that played for more than 15 years next to a point guard that many consider one of the best ever at his position.  Nevertheless, Malone was one of the ultra elite players in the league for almost two decades.  He is one of the few people than can claim to have beaten out both Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal for MVP awards.  And he put together a box score resume that can compete with any player that has ever lived.

Where does the Mailman stack up on your list?  Among the very best, or a notch down?

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