Karl Malone surveyed the fleet of stretch limousines and
Lincoln Town cars idling at New York's LaGuardia Airport late
last Thursday night. The NBA's reigning MVP knew better than to
look for his name on the placards held by drivers awaiting their
passengers. Instead he hailed a cab, threw his and his wife's
bags in the trunk and headed to the New York Hilton, where his
room, he says, "was so small I could turn the TV on with my
Thus began a weekend of perceived insults to Malone, who would
score only four points in the West's 135-114 loss in Sunday's
All-Star Game. "I come because I am proud to represent the Utah
Jazz," Malone says, "but I can't say I enjoy it like I used to.
This is no longer a basketball game. It's a celebrity
tournament, and that's not me."
The NBA says limos and luxury suites are extras that players pay
for for themselves during All-Star weekend, but Malone has
doubts about that claim. He does know that after he was awakened
by the sound of a jackhammer at 7 a.m. on Friday, the league
refused his request for help in finding more peacefuland
accommodations. The Malones wound up at a $2,500-a-night
suite at Trump Towers.
"I can take care of myself," Malone says. "I guess I'm not crazy
enough or bad enough or controversial enough to make a fuss
over." He does think, though, that the league might take better
care of a power forward who is once again putting up MVP
numbers: 25.8 points a game (second to Michael Jordan's 28.9),
10.0 rebounds and 52.9% shooting.
Like Jordan, the Mailman has tied his future to that of his
coach, although Malone's stance has not received as much
attention as MJ's. Jazz owner Larry Miller has not granted Jerry
Sloan his usual one-year extension, saying he wants to see how
the season goes. If Miller fails to give such an extension, the
contracts of Malone, John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek and Sloan will
all be up in the summer of 1999.
To Malone that is no coincidence. "Lately all you hear about in
Utah is building for the future," he says. "That's all well and
good, but the fact is, I ain't washed up yet. And I know it
sounds corny, but I love my coach, and I will not play in Utah
if Coach Sloan is not my coach."
Malone is convinced that he and Jordan are the last superstars
inclined to fight for their respective coaches instead of
against them. "Guys are worrying only about themselves now," he
says. "I went to the All-Star players' meeting on Friday, and
the first thing I noticed was that the camaraderie is gone. We
used to all sit together in those meetings, but now it's by team
or by what sneaker you wear."
For a league that needs to develop a new group of responsible
stars, the image of Malone sitting alone should be disturbing.
"It's kind of like when your kids get to be teenagers," Malone
says. "All of a sudden Dad and Mom are too old-fashioned. They'd
rather hang out with their friends."
Issue date: February 16, 1998