Moments later an argument ensues after a foul called by Akeem Abdul-Olajuwon, the Cougars' 7-foot center from Nigeria. Five minutes of yelling follow. "That boy just learned too quick," Malone says. "All the English he knows is 'women' and 'My ball, my ball.' "
An hour and a half later, Malone agrees to join the by-now degenerated play, but his effort is minimal at best. In fact, the highlight of his day comes when the Houston women's team marches onto the court just as he's leaving. "Mo," says Rockets Guard Tom Henderson, noting the ladies' matching shirts and shorts emblazoned with the Houston logo, "they've got better stuff than we—excuse me, I mean better stuff than my team, the Houston Rockets—do." Malone, wearing a red T shirt with PHILADELPHIA SAM'S CHEESESTEAKS in bold lettering, just smiles.
Malone wore a Houston Rockets uniform for six seasons. He played in 464 games and led the club in scoring in 239 of them. Malone has scored in double figures in his last 316, the second-longest streak in the league behind the Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (381).
Moses Malone was the Houston Rockets. Playing 42 minutes a game last season, he took 25% of Houston's shots and averaged 31.1 points per game. And, of course, he rebounded, averaging 14.7 per game to win his third crown in six years and become the first repeat rebound champion since Chamberlain in 1971-72 and 1972-73. Only one other player has ever repeated as rebounding champ: Bill Russell. "In the 37-year history of the league there have been only four dominant players," says Houston General Manager Ray Patterson. "Wilt, Russell, Abdul-Jabbar and Mo."
Which is why the 76ers decided to mortgage their future and trade starting Center Caldwell Jones and Cleveland's top pick in next June's draft—possibly Ralph Sampson—for Malone.
Philadelphians have been talking title since Sept. 15, the day Moses officially became the $13.2 Million Man. "There are lots of things that I can do that the public hasn't seen yet," Malone says. "The people will see how much I'm an all-around player. They say CJ [Caldwell Jones] is a great defensive player. I was the best defensive player the Houston Rockets ever had. Some nights I had to prepare for three guys: the center, the power forward and the small forward. I had to check them all. If CJ does that, he'll foul out every other game."
Since Malone signed his contract, Houston's season-ticket sales are down 15% while Philly's are up 48%. Even before the trade, the Sixers raised ticket prices an average of 45% across the board and added 118 new courtside seats at $50 a pop; most of those have been sold. In all, the Sixers have sold 5,000 season tickets for Malone's inaugural season in Philadelphia, 2,000 more than last season. And revenue generated by sales of season and single-game tickets is incredibly already 67% of last year's total, which was $3 million.
Malone made his debut as a 76er in the team's annual training camp mile run. He crossed the line in 6:15, dead last and almost dead, period. "Didn't you guys do this in Houston?" someone asked. "Naw," Malone panted, "all we ever did was four laps around the gym." Malone also was unprepared for the turnaway crowds that often showed up at practices at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. "The most people we ever got in Houston were about 15, and most of them were reporters and people passing through," Malone says. "I'll bet CJ's down there now goin', 'Where are all the people?' "
All the excitement aside, there are some questions to be answered, like: How will Malone blend with his new teammates? "I think they'll be fine," says Milwaukee Coach Don Nelson. "They'll use him 44 minutes a game unless they're losing. Then it'll be 48."
But Boston General Manager Red Auerbach, perhaps looking to score an early psychological blow on his Atlantic Division archrivals, sees Malone's big contract wreaking havoc, 'it might be good for Philly for a year," he says. "But then it will start to eat their team up. What are they going to do when all their other great players want to renegotiate in comparison to what Malone got? That's when the fun will start."