Moses Malone, the Best Offensive Rebounder in NBA History

The enduring image of Moses Malone happened over thirty years ago when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals and was responsible for the on court destruction of the Los Angeles Lakers. Malone was crowned champion and his prophecy came true. Before the playoffs started he said, “Fo…Fo…Fo..”, a signature phrase that would forever be attached to his name. Why fo…fo…fo…? Because the 76ers, he predicted, would beat all comers in four games. He was close to being right. The only team the 76ers lost to in the 1983 playoffs was Milwaukee.

Malone was an unstoppable force in the 1983 NBA Finals, 26 points, 18 rebounds. The finesse Showtime Lakers had no answer for him. Even Pat Riley conceded the Lakers were pushed around by the 76ers, particularly by Moses Malone.

Moses Malone’s death at the age of 60 nearly two years ago is still a stunning turn of events coming on the heels of the 76ers losing Darryl Dawkins. The irony is sad. Darryl Dawkins was traded from the 76ers in 1982 to the Nets so the 76ers could sign Moses Malone. Now both are dead.

But it was Malone, not Dawkins, whose career would be defined by sheer dominance as he was the lifeblood for two NBA clubs, the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, on his way to three MVP awards and Hall of Fame honors.

Moses Malone was the first player to become a professional out of high school. He was drafted in 1974 by the Utah Stars of the ABA. He then played for the Spirits of St. Louis. As a teenager Malone was dominant, 17 points, 12 rebounds. After the NBA-ABA merger, Malone was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers but the Blazers traded him to Buffalo who then traded him to Houston where Malone would become a dominant NBA force and a MVP. In one game with the Rockets, he had 37 rebounds.

The Rockets went to the playoffs with Malone as an anchor. He set a playoff record in his first NBA season when he grabbed 15 offensive rebounds against the Washington Bullets. He averaged 17 rebounds per game in his first NBA playoffs. His second year, even though he was injured, he led the NBA in offensive rebounding. An All-Star for 12 straight years, one of his most dominating seasons was in 1978-79 when he was MVP of the league. He was just 23 years old. He averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds.

The NBA hadn’t seen such a dominant workhorse, most minutes played, offensive rebounder, tough in the paint, annihilator of defenses. Malone was only 6-10 but he was a ferocious athlete. In his sixth year, he scored 53 points against the Clippers and against the Supersonics he had 21 offensive rebounds.

His second MVP was in 1981-82. 31 points, 15 rebounds. It would be his last season with Houston. Philadelphia signed Malone to an offer sheet and the Rockets didn’t match it.

When he became a 76er, Malone was joining a loaded team where he was the last piece they needed. His teammates were Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones. Malone won the MVP award, the only player to win back to back MVP awards with two different teams. Oh, and the 76ers won the title when they wiped the floor with the Lakers and exposed the Lakers weakness, their finesse style of play. It was no match for the grit and physicality of Eastern Conference basketball.

The Sixers in 1983 were 12-1, the second most dominant playoff run in NBA history. (The 2001 Lakers were 15-1). Malone stayed in Philly for 5 seasons, averaging 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. It was a little less than his Houston numbers, (24 points, 15 rebounds) but in Houston he never won a title.

After Philly, Malone played for a variety of teams including the Hawks, Bullets and Bucks before retiring in 1995. It was a extraordinary 21 year career that was affirmed when Malone was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2001.

Moses Malone is the best offensive rebounder in NBA history (7,382). He is 5th All-Time in defensive rebounds (10,452). He is third All-Time in total rebounds (17,834). He is the 7th best scorer in NBA history (29,580) points. He is 6th All-time in minutes played. He is 5th All-Time in games played (1455). He is 2nd All-Time in in free throw attempts and free throws.

He died in his sleep on September 13th 2015; he died quietly. It was the opposite of his NBA career which was a feast of dominance, hustle and brilliance.


photo via llananba