This weekend the
brothers will once again be the life of the party as the NBA All-Star Game,
with its attendant high rollers and bacchanal, comes to Las Vegas. The Maloofs
were crucial to bringing the event to Sin City (Joe and Gavin pitched
commissioner David Stern, then George had to get every major casino in town to
suspend all betting on the NBA during the weekend), and the players will stay
at the Palms--which features the $25,000-per-night Hardwood Suite, complete
with a half-court and three extralong Murphy beds, which pull out from the
pass themselves off as supersophisticated, though they've got a pretty
sophisticated business understanding of most things," says Stern, who has
known Joe and Gavin for half their lives, dating back to the Maloof family's
ownership of the Houston Rockets. "The beauty of it was that the Maloofs
were on the ground and they allowed us to communicate with all the right people
in the best-natured way. They were invaluable to us being able to have the game
in Las Vegas. It couldn't have happened without them."
father, Joe and Gavin are not merely ambitious. They work hard at remaining
young and try to generate as much fun or profit from each moment as they
possibly can. Why? "The Maloofs don't live a long time normally," says
Gavin, "especially the males."
George Maloof Sr.
was 21 when he left the University of Colorado in 1944 and returned home to
Albuquerque to run the family business after his father, Joe, a Lebanese
immigrant, suffered a heart attack. (Joe died in 1956 at age 54.) The Maloofs
were the local Coors beer distributors, and young George worked hard to gain
the franchise statewide. Over the years he would add to the family's holdings a
trucking firm, hotels, a majority interest in Albuquerque's First National Bank
and, in 1979, at a cost of $9 million, the Rockets.
When George Sr.
and Colleen's children were as young as 10, they were put to work in the beer
distributorship, cleaning the warehouses and organizing the recyclables. Like
his sons today, George was also in a hurry. "He used to take me and Gavin
around with him," says Joe. "He'd say, 'Someday these two guys are
going to be running my business.' He kept telling that to people, and I didn't
know why. And he'd say, 'Remember, when I die you've got to stick together with
your mother. You and your brothers and your sister, you've got to stick
together with your mom.'"
That time would
arrive unexpectedly. On Nov. 30, 1980, George Sr. suffered a massive heart
attack and died at age 57. "It's Friday night, about 10:30, and my mom gave
me a phone call: 'Your dad's sick, come on over to the hospital right
now,'" Joe recalls. "I was so happy that I didn't go out partying that
night, so I got to spend a few hours with him before he died. He was in the
hospital with my mom and--were you there?"
says Gavin, "I was there."
"He died in
front of us," Joe continues. "Jeez. And you know what he said before he
died? He said, 'How many points did Moses have?' Moses Malone. That's a true
I'll tell you one that's even better," says Gavin, as he launches into
another tale from their father's last night. "We opened up the Classic
Hotel in Albuquerque, that's probably what killed him. An $18 million hotel,
that was a big risk for us back then. It had just opened, and he was in the
coffee shop; he was eating and he got sick. My mother takes him outside--he'd
just had a massive heart attack--but before he gets in the car he's reaching in
his pocket to take care of the bellman. And my mom says, 'George, come on, you
can worry about him later.'"
vomiting," says Joe, "and he's trying to take care of--"