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Hoop it up all week with SI.com's writers in the NBA Playoffs Blog, a daily journal of NBA commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
5:28: PM ET, 5/12/06

Malone the odd man out

Posted by Andy Gray
Why is Karl Malone our selection for the best player never to win a championship? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, "let me count the ways."

Karl Malone accomplished almost everything a player could in the NBA -- but win a title.
AP
First and foremost is his incredible durability. Despite spending most of his career doing his team's dirty work beneath the boards, Malone managed to play at least 80 games in 17 of his 19 NBA seasons. Even more astonishing is that in his first 13 seasons, Malone missed a grand total of five games. Imagine holding a job for 13 years and taking only five sick days in that time. Malone's ability to stay on the court is a credit to his superior conditioning and toughness. Compared with our No. 2 selection, Charles Barkley, who only played in more than 70 games in only eight of his 17 seasons, Malone's feat is even more impressive

But durability means little if you don't consistently produce on the court, and the Mailman managed to do just that, averaging at least 20 points and nine rebounds over the course of 15 seasons. His career scoring total of 36,928 points ranks second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His game wasn't complex. He generally scored in one of three ways: the pick and roll, the pick and pop or putting back a teammate's missed shot underneath the basket. None of these were particularly flashy or destined to show up on the highlight film, but Malone was never the flashy type or a self promoter like many of his peers.

Additionally, Malone was one of the hardest workers ever to play the game. His free throw percentage went from below 50 percent his first season to nearly 80 percent by the end of his career. He developed an outside jump shot midway through his career that made him nearly impossible to guard. His body was among the most chiseled in the NBA, the result of a strenuous workout routine that included running up and down mountains in the offseason and occasional off-the-court forays into the world of professional wrestling.

True, there are a number of things we could punish Malone for. There would've been no Michael Jordan jumper to win the 1998 NBA championship had Malone not carelessly let Jordan steal the ball from him the possession before. His "kick jumpshot," in which he would flail his legs at opposing players while shooting, angered more than a few opponents. The extra short tie he wore to the '85 draft has gone down as one of the worst wardrobe debacles in NBA history.

But every star has his detractors. Malone's numbers speak for themselves. His teams never missed the playoffs, not once. His career regular season averages (25.0 ppg and 10.1 rpg) were nearly identical to his post-season stats (24.7 ppg and 10.7 rpg). He made the All-NBA First Team 11 times, was a 14-time All-Star and a two-time MVP.

Charles Barkley was phenomenal, as was Patrick Ewing, Elgin Baylor and everyone else on our list. But none of them matched Malone's production, durability and consistency, and for those reasons, The Mailman is our choice for greatest player never to win a title.

Who's your choice?

Comments:

Posted: 6:48 PM   by Anonymous
I must say Andy, there's not much to find wrong with that list. Karl Malone and Charles Barkley are argubably the two toughest Power Forwards that ever played the game. Malone was suprisingly quick and agile for a man his size, not to mention a pretty good passer in his own right. I've never seen a Power Forward run up and down the floor as good as him over the years. Though Charles is my personal favorite PF of all time, Malone gets my respect and deserves to be #1. Though many believe Tim Duncan will perhaps go down as the greatest Power Foward ever, had Malone been able to win at least one of the two championships while with the Jazz, there's no question his name would have to mentioned in that debate.
Posted: 7:37 PM   by Anonymous
Malone, for sure.
Posted: 8:12 PM   by maribel
OK. I agree about Malone. As a Lakers fan throughout the 90's, I had to endure season after season of Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz kicking our butts right out of the playoffs. As much as I despised him, I knew he was great and I cannot believe the Lakers were the team to give him his last chance for a championship. When we lost to Detroit that year, ironically enough I felt the worst for Malone.

I hope KG doesn't go down the same way. Give him his trade!!
Posted: 12:53 AM   by Anonymous
i pretty much agree with what you've written. But being a passionate pacers fan, i reckon Reggie Miller should get some recognition here. Although he was not the most brillant, Miller was the best on the pacers team that consistantly made a deep run into the playoffs, ie. in the 2000 grand final. and most importantly, he's clutch performances are one of best history.
Posted: 2:17 AM   by Anonymous
Where's Reggie Miller??!!?? All-time NBA leader in total 3-pt field goals made, 8 points in 16 seconds, numerous playoff appearances....He definitely needs to be on this list, at least more so than Jason Kidd. No offense to kidd, but miller is definitely hall of fame status.
Posted: 8:29 AM   by marte
I think you have left Reggie Miller on the list. Miller has already proven himself with some great Jordanlike buzzer beaters aside from all time leader in three point field goals made.

Andy,

Philippines
Posted: 9:48 AM   by Anonymous
i must say your list is reasonable and understandable, but it hurts to see Reggie Miller left off this list. although the players on your list might have had better regular season careers, at least statistically, as far as the playoffs, Reggie's clutch performances probably rank only second to MJ. Reggie's thrilling end-of-regulation games are the stuff of legend. so I'd make a strong case he be somewhere in the bottom-half of your list.
Posted: 10:03 AM   by Anonymous
The best player without a ring is StocktonandMalone.

You can't separate their two careers, and to have Stockton that far away from Malone is ridiculous.

Two of the three ways that Malone scored relied entirely upon Stockton to get him the ball.
Posted: 10:07 AM   by Anonymous
How come John Stockton is so far down the list. Does being number one in both assists and steals (by far) accounnt for nothing? If Malone is number 1 then put the man who made him so great on those pick and rolls as number 2. Or is passing not that important anymore
Posted: 12:01 PM   by Anonymous
Sidney Moncrief is better than Reggie Miller?
Posted: 12:45 PM   by Anonymous
AD again is off the list? Adrian Dantley, is one of the NBAs most prolific scorers, won a Rookie of the Year, Comeback player of the year, along with numerous All Star appearences.

He was a smart, hard working player, whose low key style seemed to threaten younger superstars he played with (Isiah, Malone, etc).
Posted: 12:47 PM   by Anonymous
Mr Gray,

I think you forgot about Reggie Miller.. I am not familliar with the other guys on that list but Thriller Miller should have been at least in the top 5.

You have to correct yourself, I can't believe he is not on that list. He is a player that is fun and thrilling to watch but sad to see him go without a ring.

jdub.02(at)gmail.com
Posted: 12:47 PM   by Anonymous
Agree with the Reggie callout~
He deserves to be mentioned with Ewing and Barkley. Without Reggie, you loose so many reasons why we love the game.
Posted: 1:00 PM   by Bo
Where the heck are top players like Mourning and Larry Johnson.

But I do agree withe most of the list.
Specially Wilkins, Stockton, Malone & Sir Charles..
Posted: 1:19 PM   by Anonymous
You cannot leave Bob Lanier off the list.
Posted: 1:33 PM   by Anonymous
Muggsy Bogues? LeBron, well he doesn't count because he can win one right now in the playoffs. Anyways, *rants* Lamar Odom, Carmelo, Elton Brand? You should of made it 30. But I agree on most of the list. Reggie miller couldv'e been there
Posted: 1:41 PM   by Anonymous
What about Gary Payton? Sure he's years past it now but there was no better point guard in the game in the 90's.
Posted: 2:30 PM   by Anonymous
Another vote for Reggie Miller!
Posted: 2:51 PM   by Anonymous
Anybody but Malone. He was known as a flopper and dirty player. Just go back and look at how many players he hurt with "accidental" elbows, going all the way back to college.

The best memory I have of Malone was when Hakeem called him out on national TV to "be a mon". Hahahaha.
Posted: 3:45 PM   by Anonymous
Reggie Miller and Adrian Dantley were huge oversights. Oh, and Barkley is my alltime favorite and Malone was phenomenal, but Elgin Baylor is the best player without a ring!
Posted: 4:35 PM   by Anonymous
As someone mentioned, it's hard to separate Malone and Stockton, not only because of Stockton's importance to Malone's stats, but also because they were two of the dirtiest players I ever saw at their respective positions. I lost a lot of respect for their legit accomplishments because of the many cheap shots they both dished out consistently.

I never particularly liked Reggie Miller, but I agree with those who say he should be on the list.
Posted: 4:56 PM   by Borjan
Two words: Reggie Miller.

Another 5 words: definitely deserves Top 10 spot...
Posted: 5:30 PM   by OlyJamal
In your argument, you assert that, "first and foremost", Karl Malone is the greatest player never to win a NBA title because of his durablity. Then later you suggest "durability means little if you don't consistently produce on the court." My question for you is why is durablity first and foremost when later you claim it means little if you don't have other attributes?
Posted: 6:34 PM   by Anonymous
Growing up in Idaho I had no choice but to obsess over the Utah Jazz. I love Karl but Stockton's CAREER achievements seem to amount to more. He holds two record that will probably stand for a looooong time. Both players brought it to the floor every night but Stock's legacy on the game is etched in history. Should've gone for the scoring title Karl.
Posted: 9:16 PM   by Aireness
Knick Killer! Reggie Miller!
Posted: 9:44 PM   by dogma
You may want to consider re-listing and only including players who are retired. This will free up space for the likes of: Reggie Miller, Connie Hawkins (ABA Championships don't count...right?), Bob Lanier, Calvin Murphy, and Nate Thurmond. And yes, I am old school.
Posted: 11:15 PM   by Anonymous
reggie miller.....
Posted: 11:51 PM   by Anonymous
Ewing should be higher on the list; one of the best offensive big men of all time as well as a great defensive player, and he brought his team to the 7th game of a championship without another all-star on the team; and the Knicks would have won series if Reilly had not let John Starks fire at will in the deciding game. Ewing should be in the top four, easily.
Posted: 12:13 AM   by Gray socks
Pistol Pete Maravich - changed the game, gave hope to those with tidy verticals and lived to breathe basketball.
Gray Socks
Posted: 2:02 AM   by John from Philippines
hey...how come Miller time is not on the list?Miller isn't just one of the best players who have'nt won a title,but he's also one of the most entertaining players the NBA has ever seen...!!!have we forgotten those game winners and the "Knick killings"?!He's the best three point shooter in the history of the NBA.And that best gets a little more better when the game is on the line.
Posted: 2:20 AM   by Anonymous
Elgin Baylor by far is the best player never win a championship.
The 1st the Lakers won baylor retired after a few games at the start of the season.
Posted: 6:17 AM   by EA
18 seasons with the same team, passed Charles Barkley for 14th place on the NBA's all-time career scoring list, went over 100 3-pt FGM for the 15th consecutive season(NBA record), all-time NBA leader in 3-pt FGM (2,464 3-pt FGM), 5 time all-star, member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olmpic Basketball Team. R-E-G, G-I-E, REG-GIE...SHOOTING THE THREE!
Posted: 8:36 AM   by Anonymous
I think this "award" is such a difficult one to give out. One of those any-choice-will-cause-others-to-argue kind of honor. But since it is all opinio, here's my "point oh two". Barkley all the way. Yes he was fat,vulgar at time, spit on a little girl and even has a gambling problem, but man did you ever watch him play? Greatness, in my opinion, is the ability to own a game. That talent which can seemingly disregard whomever is on the floor against you. To rule supremely, at times, in the flow of the game. Of those who have not won a championship, who did this better than Barkley?
Thanks for reading me out.
spamman(at)thefiveofus.info
Posted: 8:53 AM   by HRicks
...the reason karl malone has no championship is KARL MALONE... if malone makes free throws the jazz beat the bulls not once, but TWICE... pitiful, pitiful, pitiful choice you guys made on one the most OVERRATED players to EVER his professsional sports...HRicks
Posted: 9:05 AM   by Rohun
How did Reggie Miller not even make the list.
Posted: 9:33 AM   by festicles
This is kind of a side comment....I totally agree that Karl Malone was an amazing talent and an incredibly dedicated and hard working player who was committed to putting team goals first. What I don't understand, is why I consistently hear people act like it is so impressive when someone's team "consistently makes the playoffs". I mean, come on, the way the NBA has structured things you can make the playoffs if you have a pulse.

Using "making the playoffs" as a benchmark of team success is like when Hoover in Animal House is referring to the Deltas as having "a longstanding tradition of existence for over 50 years". Until the NBA gets serious about making the playoffs mean something (which will never happen), then I don't think making the playoffs is anything to be impressed with - unless you get to the second round or the finals, all that making the playoffs proves is that you had enough basic signs of life to rise above the dregs that perpetually settle at the bottom of the NBA barrel.
Posted: 10:44 AM   by Anonymous
I think that Miller should be on the list. He was easily the most fun player to watch in clutch games.
Posted: 11:06 AM   by BigJay
In my opinion you forgot a few players here? I didn't ever like him much, but where is Reggie Miller on this list? And as long as I see people such as Jason Kidd and AI on there, I can very well argue that Dirk Nowitzki has also earned a spot on this list. But I guess you left him off, because he will win a title within the next few weeks...
Posted: 11:18 AM   by Anonymous
karl malone and stocckton were two of teh dirtiest players in the nba i n the past 20 years. how can they be in the top ten if the greatest players let alone number one. i´m happy that malone never got a championship and that MJ stuck it to them twice. charles barkley has done more for the nba then stockalone have. bad choice tbh
Posted: 11:24 AM   by moorecats
Yes, Where is Reggie? If he ever got the ball in last 10 seconds, I knew it was done. I hated that guy. But, he is a player that you love to hate. He is probably one of the best recent players.
Posted: 11:25 AM   by Mihu
you just cannot leave Gary Payton out of the list!!!one of the best point guards all-time! maybe the best perimeter defender all-time led a team twice to the finals ( even Phil Jackson said he was the floor leader of that 2004 lakers team)!!!
i hope he get`s one this year if he is not in the top 15 of this list i don`t think that anyone else except for malone, stockton and wilkins should be!!!
Posted: 11:33 AM   by Anonymous
Statistic wise..Malone is the greatest to not win a championship. But that title should belong to Patrick Ewing.

Malone had his chance TWICE to beat the Bulls. They were even the favored team in the 2nd matchup, but Malone failed to show up for a majority of both series. They were all close games. Stockton struggled to keep the Jazz afloat while Malone missed jumpers and pretty much let Rodman prevent him from scoring and rebounding (I may be underestimating Rodman with that statement). He had a real chance at greatness.

Ewing did choke at times but also fell short in due to the lack of help from his team (Starks, Harper, Ward..etc). He wasn't even able to play in the 99 Finals.
Posted: 12:30 PM   by Anonymous
If you have to mention one player who should get the title that guy is Allen Iverson. Few players play with heart and answer is one of them.
Posted: 1:31 PM   by M Scott
Truthfully? I'm surprised that Gary Payton and Reggie Miller aren't on this list somewhere. I'm stunned that Sidney Moncrief is, when Marques Johnson was the best player on that team. Now, there's someone who doesn't get any respect...

I know that Malone gets him on longevity, ut if anybody was going to take Karl Malone over Charles Barkley at their peak, they're nuts. Despite the size difference, Barkley was better.
Posted: 1:57 PM   by Anonymous
I would take Reggie Miller in a heartbeat over Jason Kidd, the most overrated player of all time. Kidd has had very good talent around him in his career, and instead of making them better, they get better after he leaves.
Kidd just can't shoot a lick, he's a lifetime 40.2% shooter, that's worse then Damon Stoudamire for crying out loud. And Kidd is a flat out liability come crunch time. There's a reason his teams never have won... eventually he is forced to shoot, and he just can't do the job. The bigger the moment, the better Reggie was; Jason Kidd in a big game, big moment, just can't shoot well enough to get it done.
Posted: 4:44 PM   by Anonymous
What about T Mac
Posted: 7:17 PM   by Anonymous
Reggie Miller !!!! and maybe Dikembe Mutumbo.
Posted: 9:18 PM   by YUL BUDY
I agree, The Mailman is the Man!..Lord of No Rings...give him credit for all the effort..he craves for it ( and wish granted when he was traded to the Lakers...heard he's coming off retirement if Heat enters The Finals??? )...Sorry Karl you came in with number 23..
Posted: 9:23 PM   by Anonymous
Definetly not Reggie Miller. He was a one-dimensional shooter, a great one, but not one of the 15 greatest without a ring. I would throw Gary Payton's name out there as a possible entry. His sterling play on both sides of the ball made the Sonics the best team in basketball with MJ for a good stretch of the 90's.
Posted: 9:27 PM   by Ted Dahlman
At first I wondered about Reggie Miller being left off the list. Then I realized he was basically a one-dimensional shooter. Which got me thinking about the '00 Pacers as perhaps the greatest group of one-dimensional players ever assembled. How about a ranking of the best one-dimensional players?
Posted: 9:29 PM   by Anonymous
How Gary Paton and Reggie Miller didn't make this list is beyond me. Some of the guys on this list, I can't speak on because they're a little before my time. But if Dominique, Ewing, Kidd and Iverson are on this list, leaving those two guys out is a crime.
Posted: 10:13 PM   by peter michael, philippines
How could you missed Reggie Miller? He provided some of the best clutch hits in the game and some of the most memorable moments in basketball. He is one of the dreaded shooters in the game especially in the playoffs.

Yes in my opinion Reggie was the fiery leader of the Pacers and he motivated his teammates better than similar scorers of your choice like Alex English and George Gervin.

You missed big.
Posted: 10:49 PM   by Anonymous
I must say this is really a tough one. The best player in NBA history not to win a title. I just might have to lean towards a big fella on this one and say Charles Barkley. He's a guy that came so close and @ one time you could say was the most dominant player for 1 season. I could never say that about Malone. Charles would be my choice
Posted: 11:22 PM   by Anonymous
u have got to be kidding me

MILLER TIME!

Reggie Miller all the way

there is no-one more clutch in the history of basketball
Posted: 12:53 AM   by Anonymous
Shawn Bradley
Posted: 3:01 AM   by Anonymous
Whoever said that when Kidd leaves his previous team that they get better is a complete moron! Your thinking of Starbury, not Kidd. Miller was just a scorer, he was worthless on defense and sharing the rock and rebounding. While Miller was busy just scoring Kidd is busy getting triple doubles in a game, c'mon now! And they called Gary Payton "The Glove" for a reason... He's the guy that needs to be on the list!
Posted: 9:09 AM   by Anonymous
Where is Reggie Miller? Your list is not complete without Reggie!
Posted: 10:18 AM   by Anonymous
You must be kidding leaving REGGIE MILLER off the list. REGGIE carried a franchise and did not chase around with other teams for a ring. Hope this was not a criteria to make it to the list.
Posted: 10:20 AM   by Anonymous
You have hurt millions of Reggie Miller fans.
Posted: 10:34 AM   by Anonymous
One more vote for Reggie Miller, the Knick's Killer.
From a Knick's Fan
Posted: 12:24 PM   by Anonymous
This is ridiculous, to leave Reggie Miller off the list and put the likes of Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson on there, when all they have done is jump teams a few times trying to find the best team to give them a shot at it instead of building a solid franchise to contend year in and out. Reggie stayed with one team, and it almost paid off in 2000 with a ring, but even though he never won one, as long as he was playing, there was always a good chance the pacers would be in the playoffs. You can ask any player from any of those teams the pacers faced, and they would tell you that they feared playing the pacers because of Miller. This is a disgrace and there must be some writer for SI who intentionally left miller off to put Kidd on here or Iverson.
Posted: 12:48 PM   by Anonymous
What about Reggie Miller who spent his whole career with the same team; the Pacers. He was the all time best 3 point shooter and excellent free throw shooter. He was the best clutch shooter ever. He just had his number retired and how many guys get that accomplished.
Posted: 12:55 PM   by Anonymous
Reggie Miller is one of the greatest players of all time in my eyes
Posted: 1:03 PM   by Anonymous
Reggie Miller below Jason Kidd

Game on the line, which of these guys do you want on your team. Call it one dimensional if you will. I will take a one dimensional player like Reggie on my team any day.

How are supposed to take a list seriously that got something this simple wrong.
Posted: 2:18 PM   by alex
I generally like your picks, but like so many comments you already have I would add Reggie Miller to the list.

As far as Power Forwards go, I would take Charles Barkley (in his prime) over Karl Malone any day. Barkley was a dominant player. Charles did not have the rich physical gifts that Malone had along with John Stockton to boost his career. When Barkley time came to play the Bulls when he was with the Suns, he showed up big time. Not the case with Karl! I won't even go into Karl rap as a dirty player. You can see from the color TV work he does that Barkley is a true student of the game. Nuff said.
Posted: 4:53 PM   by Justin Gephart
There should be no reason that Reggie was left out of the list. Definitely top 5, Malone is respectable, but even he sold out and played for the Lakers in order to get that elusive ring. Reggie brought love to the game and his loyalty was true to the Pacers all the way to the end. Come on, don't you remember "Miller time". He is missed by the organization and the league, he was truly a class act and a joy to watch.
Posted: 5:37 PM   by Anonymous
I'm fine with most of your list and Karl Malone, Barkley and Baylor need to be at the top, no question. But....what R U guys smoking that ya letf Reggie off the list? Dave Bing, Alex English and Sidney Moncrief but NO Reggie Miller? You MUST be crazy, smoking some great stuff, or just plain "stuck on stupid"!
Posted: 10:21 PM   by Anonymous
I can't believe Reggie Miller was not even mentioned on your list. Some of the players who made the list are still active players and have many more chances to win a ring or rings as the case may be. Reggie was a NBA all time 3 point shooter, a clutch shooter who won many games in the last 10 seconds or less. He was feared and loathed by the Knicks. He is a class act and is sorely missed by the Indiana Pacers and Pacer fans. There's a good chance the Pacers would still be playing in the Playoffs had Reggie not retired. Reg-gie! Reg-gie!
Posted: 5:08 AM   by Anonymous
Gary Payton wasn't mentioned because he's going to get a ring in about 35 days, when these playoffs are over and The HEAT win it all. Go HEAT!!!
Posted: 10:23 AM   by Anonymous
HOMBRE! I've been watching NBA basketball for 30 years in Guatemala and after MJ there's no one that has been more imitated by guys trying to hit a last second shot than Reggie Miller. Miller was a great inspiration to follow basketball! Sidney Moncrief? Who in the world is he? Never heard from him overseas... And # 1 should be "Stockton-Malone", why?, simple, they were great together, they were just average players when they were not playing together. ARRIBA LOS CLIPPERS!
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