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Celebrating 50 years of Karl Malone

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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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Karl Malone turned 50 on Wednesday, and several tributes appeared across the internet to honor the Mailman’s semicentennial.

Over at the @NBAHistory Twitter feed, you can find several odds and ends recapping Malone’s distinguished career. The most interesting fact? During his 18 year career with the Utah Jazz, Malone only missed 10 games. Now that’s dedication.

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The Salt Lake Tribune published a fascinating feature on Malone — which shouldn’t be surprising, considering he’s one of the most famous players in the history of the Jazz franchise. But something that is surprising is Malone’s most recent purchase: A mule.

From the story:

Former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, who turns 50 on Wednesday, has made one concession to age.

He bought a mule.

[…]

Malone’s passion for fitness is matched by his love of hunting and fishing. Hiking through the thick forests and rolling hills of Louisiana and Arkansas in pursuit of game has been a favorite hobby since his mother, Shirley, first allowed him to do so.

Malone has always done the strenuous physical work his pastime requires by himself — at least until recently.

“Instead of being the athlete and walking everywhere, he got himself a mule,” said Kay Malone, his wife. “… I think he’s listening to his body more. He’s preserving himself more. He wants to be able to do things with the grandkids.”

Another excerpt from the Tribune piece recalls a prank that former coach Frank Layden played on Malone when Malone was a rookie out of Louisiana Tech in 1985:

His first visit to Utah coincided with the state’s Pioneer Day celebration and he accepted then-coach Frank Layden’s invitation to ride on the team’s float in the Days of ’47 parade.

Initially, Layden told Malone the parade was being held because of his 22nd birthday.

“That’s no urban legend,” Malone said. “That’s the truth. … I was waving like a [beauty] pageant queen. If there were cellphones back then, I would have called my mom and said, ‘You won’t believe it. All of Utah is here for me.’ ”

When the parade ended, Malone told Layden it was “amazing” so many people helped him celebrate his birthday. His new coach laughed and said, “I can’t believe you fell for that one.”

Fortunately, Malone has picked up some more wisdom along the way during his nearly two-decade NBA career — and now that he’s older and wiser at 50, there’s no way he’d be falling for a trick like that again.

That being said, the last 28 years of Malone’s life in the public eye have been nothing short of memorable. In honor of Malone’s big day, here are some of our favorite Mailman moments:

There was draft night, when analysts questioned Malone’s intensity — something that never proved to be a problem during his time in the league:

He definitely answered any questions about his aggressiveness with this famous elbow to the face of Isiah Thomas:

Malone also had battles with Dennis Rodman, both on the court:

And in the ring:

And Jimmy Kimmel made a habit out of hilariously — and somewhat offensively — impersonating Malone:

We can laugh at Jimmy Kimmel, but it hasn’t been all fond memories for Malone. He said some insensitive things about Magic Johnson’s HIV; he wasn't always the best father; and he reportedly hit on Kobe Bryant’s wife:

Malone also pitched those awful Skechers “shape-ups” shoes (that do not actually work, in case you’re wondering). For that, he should always be criticized:

But, for better or for worse, Malone was a hell of a player — perhaps the best power forward of all time. Not to mention, his on-court rapport with John Stockton made for one of the most famous duos in hoops history:

Malone was an Olympian, an MVP — and would have been an NBA champion had it not been for that meddling Jordan guy. His number is retired in Salt Lake City, as it should be, and he’s been enshrined forever in the Basketball Hall of Fame:

Happy birthday Mailman. Here’s to 50 more.

Tagged: Jazz

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