Unfortunately we let football get in the way of a tragedy in the NBA world, as one of the best big men in the history of basketball, Moses Malone, was found dead in his sleep early Sunday morning. He was 60, and the cause of death was a heart attack. Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, named one of the 50 greatest players in the league in 1996, he was the first player to make the jump from high school to the pros, a three-time league MVP, and is largely considered one of the greatest rebounders to ever play the game.

He was scheduled to attend a celebrity golf tournament on Sunday, and had just attended the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony earlier in the weekend. “We are deeply stunned and saddened by the passing of Hall of Famer Moses Malone, an NBA legend gone far too soon,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a league statement. “Known to his legions of fans as the ‘Chairman of the Boards,’ Moses competed with intensity every time he stepped on the court. With three MVPs and an NBA championship, he was among the most dominant centers ever to play the game and one of the best players in the history of the NBA and the ABA.

“Even more than his prodigious talent, we will miss his friendship, his generosity, his exuberant personality, and the extraordinary work ethic he brought to the game throughout his 21-year pro career…Our thoughts are with Moses’ family and friends during this difficult time.”

While most know that he went straight from high school to pro ball, his longtime friend John Lucas actually is quoted as saying that they were college roommates for one day, until “I woke up to take him to class & he said I think I’m going to the pros”. While the Utah Stars of the ABA had concerns that he would handle the jump when they drafted him in 1974, he is quoted by Frank Deford as saying; “I knew what people was saying, and so I told the Stars, `It don’t make no difference how old I am, because I still think I can bust y’all. You just watch my action.'” He then went on to average 18.8 points and 14.6 rebounds per game as a 19-year-old, earning an ABA All-Star selection in his only season in Utah. He landed with the Spirits of St. Louis after the Stars folded, then went to the NBA after the merger, he ultimately landed with the Houston Rockets in 1976 at the age of 21. He set an NBA record with 437 offensive rebounds, which he would pass only two years later. In that 1978-79 season, he won his first MVP award as he averaged 24.8 points with a career-best .540 shooting percentage and established another career-high with a league-leading 17.6 rpg, and grabbed the all-time single-season record with 587 offensive rebounds.

He went on to win two more MVP awards, played in two NBA Finals, including winning his first and only championship with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. Considered one of the best teams in NBA history, Malone along with Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks, dominated Kareem Abdul-Jabber and Los Angeles Lakers, winning four games to one, with Malone being named NBA Finals MVP. In total, he was a 13 time All-Star, finished his career with the most combined ABA and NBA offensive rebounds (7,382), 35 percent over runner-up Artis Gilmore, nine times led his respective league in offensive rebounds, and five other times finishing in the top-3. He also holds NBA records for the most offensive rebounds in a career (6,731), season (587), and game (21).He earned eight All-NBA selections, ranking seventh all-time with 29,580 points, and third with 17,834 rebounds. He also ranks second all-time in free throws made (9,018) and attempted (11,864). Malone is one of just eight players who have been named NBA MVP three or more times. He led the league in rebounds six times, including five straight from 1980 through 1985. He was also a friend and mentor everywhere he went, including to a young Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, and Charles Barkley in Philadelphia, where he helped him lose 45 pounds after he was initially drafted in 1984.

One of the true legends of the game, the basketball world mourns the loss of Moses Malone, and we at SportsZone apologize for our late tribute to one of the greatest big men the game has ever seen.

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