The blood-colored Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL arrives bearing the Mailman. He has decided that this is the right night to repair to Monopoly's Park Place, a Dallas nightclub. "It'll be good for Jenny to get out," he says. Jenny, 27, is Karl's sister. They are two of Shirley Turner's nine children. Karl summers in Dallas. From there he can be at his mother's door near Summerfield, La., in slightly more than three hours. Jenny and brother Terry, 26, are at Monopoly's when Karl arrives. Jenny means to chastise him for being late, but she can't bring herself to do it. Malone didn't know how to find Monopoly's. He doesn't go often.
The club is packed. "I don't worry," says the Mailman. "Nobody makes any trouble here. If they did, I'd just say, 'If that's what you want, I can take you outside; then we can come back in and have a good time together.' "
No one is even slightly inclined to take Malone up on this offer, be it at Monopoly's or in the NBA. Shortly after the Mailman came into the league out of Louisiana Tech in 1985, he was upbraided on the court by Maurice Lucas, formerly the league's enforcer extraordinaire. "Stop going over me," growled Lucas, "before I hurt you." And what did Malone say to that? "Nothing. I came down and dunked on his bean." When you've put rings in the snouts of 200-pound razorback hogs, as the Mailman did as a teenager, the Maurice Lucases of this world don't seem bad. "Nobody's tried to intimidate me since," says Malone. "I can play that kind of game too. If you want that."
The Mailman admires Lucas. And Tyson. And, especially, his mother. He also admires teammate John Stockton, Tommy Hearns, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Herschel Walker, Flo-Jo, 48 minutes of playing time and four-wheel-drive vehicles. "I love heavy equipment, stuff that works. Dependable stuff," he says.
The Mailman loves Big D, too, and has come to Monopoly's to dance, not to talk. The fact that he seems to have the eye of every woman in the joint doesn't impress him. He dances with Jenny. He dances. And dances. And dances. The couples on the floor change, and most of the dancers come off the hardwood sweating and winded. The Mailman keeps going with Jenny and then with whoever can keep up with him. Finally, after a good 48 minutes, the Mailman comes off the floor smiling. The next morning he will do 400 sit-ups as penance for this night of revelry. Then he'll begin his real workout—10 100-meter dashes, three 200-meter runs and three 300-meter runs. Next he'll lift weights, curling 60 pounds, pressing 270, again and again. "I like doing it," he says. "I see myself improving. I feel the power and strength growing."
"Sounds like Karl all right," says Stockton. Stock, the Jazz's point guard, last season set the NBA record for assists (1,128), in no small part because of Malone's outlet passes and rim-bending jams. "I've never seen Karl tired," Stockton says. "He's on a different standard than the rest of us."
"Jordan doesn't get tired. Bird doesn't. The great ones don't," says Layden. "Karl wishes there were 200 games a year. He gets stronger as the year goes on. He thrives on playing."
Malone wore down the entire league last season, when he averaged 25.9 points per game the first half of the season and 29.4 the second. His average of 37.7 minutes per game in the first half went to 40.3, and his rebounds increased from 10.9 to 13.2. The Mailman has started 211 straight games for Utah, a team record. 'I've never seen Karl physically dominated in a game," says Stockton. "Yet he's not walking around trying to bully people. Not to take anything away from Mark [Eaton] and Thurl [Bailey], but Karl has risen above all of us."
"What John Stockton doesn't know," says Malone, "is that he is like one of my older brothers to me, and not because he gives me the ball on the break. Mess with Stockton and you mess with me."
In the case of Karl Anthony Malone, perhaps it's best to leave the last word on what he has done, can do and is likely to try, to his mother. City people tend to get carried away. "I'm going to tell you like this," says Shirley Turner. "We're just country people. I don't get caught up in worldly things. Neither does Karl. You know why? They let you down. They fade away. I hope all this doesn't go to Karl's head. I don't think it will. He's proud he can get up in the morning and know he didn't hurt anybody to get where he is. That's the son I raised."