Karl Malone was chosen by the Jazz in 1985 out of Louisiana Tech with the 13th overall pick in the draft. Malone's first season was a success, averaging 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds. After his rookie season, the Jazz saw in him the potential to be the cornerstone of their offense. So, they traded star forward Adrian Dantley to the Detroit Pistons and decided to build around Malone. This turned out to be the correct move, as Malone upped his production to 21.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.
At the same time, reserve point guard John Stockton was winning the trust of the coaching staff and the love of the fans. By the 1987–88 season, Malone was the foundation of the offense and Stockton was the floor general. Malone made his first All-Star Game in 1988 on the strength of 27.1 points per game, and made his first All-NBA team at the end of the season. This would be the first of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances for Malone. The Jazz went 47–35, third in the Midwest Division, and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. It was in the next round however, that the Jazz as a team rose to national prominence. The Jazz took the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, led by perennial All-Stars Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to seven games. Malone upped his production to 29 points per game in that postseason.
The next year, Malone averaged 29.1 points, good for second in the NBA behind Michael Jordan, and 10.7 rebounds, which was fifth in the league. At the 1989 NBA All-Star Game, Malone finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists en route to his first All-Star MVP. The Jazz finished 51–31, but were upset in five games in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. The next year Malone increased his scoring to 31 points and his rebounding to 11.1 a game, but the Jazz were once again eliminated in the first round, this time by the Phoenix Suns.
For the time Malone and Stockton played together on the Jazz, the two formed one of the most productive guard–forward combinations in NBA history. Playing Jerry Sloan's scrappy and tough style and perfecting the pick and roll to a maximum degree of efficiency, the Jazz became a staple to make it to the playoffs and to have a winning record in the regular season. Malone led the Jazz to multiple 50-win seasons with the exception of 1992–93 (47–35) where the Jazz stumbled after the All-Star Game (when he and Stockton won co-MVP honors).
Through this time, Malone continued to put up stellar numbers, averaging 28/11.2, 27/11.2, 25.2/11.5, 26.7/10.6 and 25.7/9.8 from 1992 to 1996. The Jazz however, only made it as far as the Western Conference Finals in this period, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers (1992), the Houston Rockets (1994) and the Seattle SuperSonics (1996).
During the 1996-97 season, Malone put up a resurgent 27.4 points per game while leading the Jazz to a 64–18 record, the highest win total in Malone's 12 seasons with the Jazz. The Jazz were the best team in the Western Conference and the second-best in the league, and for his efforts Malone was awarded his first NBA Most Valuable Player honor. After sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers and easily defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz took on the Houston Rockets, led by Hall of Fame-bound, but aging trio of Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler. The Jazz beat them in six games (the last victory coming on a memorable last-second shot by Stockton). Malone finally got to the Finals in 1997, where he was pitted against the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. In a matchup of the two previous MVPs, the Bulls took the first two games at the United Center. Malone struggled from the field, going 6 of 20 for 20 points in game two. However the Jazz rebounded to take the next two games at the Delta Center behind Malone's 37 points in Game 3 and 28 in Game 4. The Bulls took the next two games and the series.
The next season saw the Jazz once again dominate. Malone put up 27 points per game and just missed out on his second MVP award, losing to Michael Jordan. Nevertheless, the Jazz posted a 62–20 record, which was the best in the NBA. The Jazz once again were seated at the top of the Western Conference, and in the 1998 playoffs they defeated the Rockets, Spurs, and Lakers en route to their second consecutive Finals appearance. The rematch with the Chicago Bulls would start differently, as Malone put up 25 points and the Jazz won Game 1, 88–85. Malone found himself unable to put up consistently stellar numbers, due in large part to the swarming defense of renowned defenders Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen. Despite Malone's 28 points in Game 6, the Bulls won the game and the series.
In the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Malone won his second MVP award and the Jazz went 37–13 in the abbreviated season. They lost in the second round to the Trail Blazers, and for the next couple of years the Jazz fell out of contention for a title. Despite the decline of his team, and his advancing age, Karl Malone still put up All-Star numbers, averaging 25.5, 23.2, 22.4, and 20.6 points per game in his last four seasons with Utah. In the 2002–2003 season, Karl Malone passed Wilt Chamberlain for second on the all-time scoring list with his 36,374 points. He became a free agent after that season.
Malone stayed on active duty for one more season, joining the Los Angeles Lakers in an attempt to win a championship, the only major achievement absent in his career. His bid failed as the Lakers were defeated in five games by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, a series where Malone sprained his right knee and played injured for four of the five games before missing game five, with the Lakers down 3–1 and the series almost over. Although several NBA teams such as the Lakers, Heat, Timberwolves and even the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs sought his services for the 2004–05 season, Malone decided to retire as a player on February 13, 2005. The Jazz retired his number 32 jersey in his honor. Despite his retirement, the Lakers never renounced his rights.
HT: First of all, congratulations on your Lakers signing.
KM. Thank you
HT: Like I said before, I’ve never seen you so happy.
HT: When you were at the signing with Gary Payton.
KM: Ya - right
HT: You had the biggest smile and every time I’ve seen you around recently you’ve got that big smile.
KM: Right, well you know its like in life, you have to make changes, it’s not always going to be popular with everybody. But in the end of the day, you do what you feel is in your heart and you follow the right reason.
KM: Wasn’t for the money, you know, I have an opportunity to win a championship at my age, if it don’t work out, I will be the first one to say it, but you have to give it a chance, you have to make an opportunity and so many times in life, well we want to do things but we don’t and five years from now we always say we wish and we should have. It’s too late then.
HT: I am going to start off with a tough question, I mean you took a hit of 18 million dollar pay cut to be here?
HT: That’s for the year! Would you have taken the plunge like this had it been without Gary Payton coming with you? Did Gary’s commitment seal the deal for you?
KM: Well, it sealed the deal but you know, Gary wouldn’t have came if I had made more. In our situation, I made the choice to let him make the most and I make the least. But one of us had to, to make it work. So, if Gary wouldn’t have came I would have made more.
HT: Who, who had the idea of going with the Lakers first?
KM: I think, I did, but I think I kinda read about Gary saying, “you will I will.”
HT: Because I heard about you may be taking a pay cut to come over here. I really thought no, there’s no way.
HT: Who’s going to take an 18 million dollar pay cut and then from there, I started hearing that maybe Payton will too.
HT: Is tha it?
KM: Its kinda of. But initially said that if we’re able to pull it off I’ll take the least amount. Which hey, Gary had to take a big one and I and I had to take a big one. So we both did. So, now we’re here and I think we know what people expect out of us.
KM: So, we’re here to do a job and do it the best of our ability.
HT: Right. A winner always prepares for a new season believing that you have a chance to win a championship.
HT: Obviously with the Utah Jazz you could always realistically expect a chance, because you guys got to a couple of NBA Finals and you were always in the playoffs.
HT: And I know you always prepared hard. Maybe you didn’t want people to know how hard you trained in the off-season, but I’ve known about it for a few years.
KM: I trained like this for the last 16 years. I trained like this.
HT: It’s like Jerry Rice-like!
KM: Yes. Absolutely. I heard about his summer training. But yeh, that’s what it’s like.
HT: How many hours are we talking about?
KM: I don’t know. It just depends. It depends on how I feel. The least amount being an hour to an hour and a half. It can be up to three hours. Sometimes four hours. That’s my job and you feel good. I‘m just saying that right now, I’m kinda on off time. I will take about three to four days off and I get started again tomorrow. I’ll hit hard tomorrow and I’ll go from there.
HT: Do you always do the court stuff too?
KM: No. I do no court stuff.
HT: Oh really.
KM: No court stuff at all. No basketball. It’s all training, weights, cardio stuff.
HT: So it’s like baseball players really.
HT: See, I know Vlade will workout and play at UCLA.
KM: I don’t play any sports. No basketball in the summer. I don’t touch a basketball!
HT: People don’t realize how tough it is mentally! 16 years of just working your ass off for the prize..
KM: 16 years of preparation to get ready to play every year. I’ve knocked years off my career by training so hard in the summer. Maybe. But I think I added years to my career by training and staying in shape year round. In the summer time I fluctuate four to five pounds in my training weight. Which is, like right now, I’m at the peak of my training. That’s why I took four to five days off because I was peaking. And then I will take four to five days off and I will start back in probably in the morning, the next day. And I got the Olympic games coming up this summer, I’ll do that and then probably take a week off and then I’ll get ready for training camp.
HT: I’ve been familiar with how hard you work year round, but you must be hitting it extra hard this summer?
KM: Yeh! Cause ha
HT: But then again its kind of a nice pain isn’t it?
KM: It’s the excitement of what I’m about to embark on. I did have an opportunity to speak to Jerry Rice the other day and he said, “God how do you feel? You should feel like a kid in a candy store!” He said, your exercise, everything, should be different, he said you know, not that your trying, just because that’s how you are going to feel. You know, that’s exactly how I feel. I just feel that I feel energized. I just feel like I can’t wait to get started. You know, after 18 years it’s like, I’m proving myself all over again. Because I’m with a new team and I know the expectations.
HT: Oh yeh.
KM: I know its 30 to 35 minutes a night. But it’s the excitement that go along with it . You know. It’is saying something that every game means something. From the start to the finish. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
HT: You and your old team mate John Stockton, up until now at least , it’s always been ‘Stockton to Malone’.
HT: Or ‘Malone to Stockton’. If he’d played one more year, would it have been hard for you to not stay with him?
KM: Oh, absolutely!
HT: So, you were committed to him, no matter what?
KM: Well, I’ll say that he made my decision easier. If he would have stayed it would have been tougher.
HT: Were there any other good fits that you could think of?
KM: Yeh. you know, I thought about it.
HT: This is obviously ideal, but you had to make a sacrifice.
KM: NO, no. I thought about it
HT: But others were willing to pay!
KM: Well yeh, I thought about San Antoino. I thought about Sacremento and Dallas. Of course a lot of them could have paid more , but I just chose to come here. And like I said once you make a decision to do something, you give somebody your word, then all of the sudden you can’t play to the end when somebody’s start offering you beaucoup money and say, “God, I tell you, I change my mind”. Once you give them your word, you give them your word and that’s what I did with them from the start. They made the call in the beginning and now we’re here .
HT: I saw an interview with you, maybe four years ago. It was the whole talk about guys who didn’t have the help. Like Barkley in his career, and Ewing. You had Stockton but you were talking about that maybe one day I’d like to play with a big man and be able to say, “Okay, you got it tonight, ‘Big-man.”
HT: “I get you tomorrow!”
HT: Was that a factor, that you can’t get any better then Shaq?
KM: Aww! No, that was a definite factor. To be able to play with a dominant center like him. It’s awesome! Awesome feeling to have to know that you are going to line up with the best center in the league every night. ‘You’re going to make me better and I’m gonna make him better’.
HT: That’s a factor too isn’t it, because he’s been the greatest player in the league at certain points, but you must have felt that you’re really going to be pushing him too?
KM: Oh yeah! Well I’m going to push him without saying anything. I’ll work hard. I’m going to get the rebound and run the floor and I feel he is going to do the same thing. So, I think we’ll push each other. We’ll make each other better. And I think as a team we’ll get better as a team. I think it is going to be exciting. I think it is going to be very exciting!
HT: Was there any thought at any point that you’d ask GP to come to the Jazz?
HT: This just started going this way and you just went all the way?
KM: It just started going this way.
HT: And the whole package just seem to get better and better
HT: The more you think about it, then there’s Shaq, there’s Kobe and GP
and it’s LA. Big market.
KM: Right. So, it just stared going this way, we just didn’t turn around, we just kept going in this direction and now….
HT: Was it partially that you felt like ‘for a change, I don’t want to have to carry the load?’
KM: Well yes. But then, I think it was better for everybody. Think is was better for the Jazz. I really do. I think about me going to another situation, would put pressure on them. Because obviously they’re rebuilding and it would have been hard for them to tell me, Thanks but no thanks- kinda. So, I had to make that decision. I had to bite that bullet and say, ‘you know what, I’ll make the decision and go’. And I tried to do it with a lot of dignity….
HT: I saw that heartfelt letter you wrote to the people of Utah.
KM: Right, I tried to do it the right way. And that’s how I felt. Why did I do it? Because that’s what I felt like I wanted to do, not that I had to do it. This Friday we’re doing a fan appreciation that me and my wife put together. So, that’s who I am. And that’s the kind of things I do.
HT: And you didn’t want to go to a young really promising young team because you’d have to teach and lead all over again?
KM: But I felt that I’d be holding them up. That is why I left the Jazz.
HT: I am talking about going to another situation. A young team for the future?
KM: No. I couldn’t go to a situation like that, I had to go to a team that I felt needed me and needed me right now. I couldn’t go to a team like that. So, I went to this situation and I am happy. I’ve never been less paid and more happier then I am now!
HT: It’s fantastic to see in sports today. It really is. Now, having played with Stockton , one of the greatest point guards ever. Did you feel that it was crucial to get a point guard like Gary Payton to put it all together between you, Shaq, and Kobe?
KM: Right I think that Gary is definitely key.
HT: No disrespect to Derek Fisher but..
KM: That’s what I am going to tell you now. We’re forgetting about Derek Fisher, Devean George and those guys that can learn a great deal, and the two young kids coming in. So, I think that we are going to learn a lot, all of us. I’m 18 years in and I’m still willing to learn. So, that’s what its about. It’s about a team. It’s about now coming together as a team. And not being a traveling circus but being a team that everyone wants to see play. From the start of training camp to hopefully the NBA Championship game.
HT: You know what’s fantastic about this, is that in baseball or in basketball when you get a veteran coming in, it usually takes up so much of the cap space that they either get the championship within the couple of years, or not, and then the team has to rebuild.
HT: But in your situation, you are not taking up cap space and you’re also going to help all the young guys coming up, as well contribute to the championship run.
KM: See I looked at this situation as, I took a huge pay cut, but opportunities I want to do away from basketball I think will help off set some of that. I want to do movies. I’ve had numerous inquiries about endorsements, the right ones. So, no, it’s not going to $19 million, but it’s a sacrifices you have to make. Sometimes you have to make a sacrifice to get some kind of reward or benefit whether it be a championship or whatever. And if it’s meant to happen, it is going to happen! If it can’t happen here in LA, it wasn’t meant to be.
HT: Right. So you must feel like, having had the success and the money already got that you’ve already won in life?
HT: So now is the time to do something more meaningful?
KM: Well, doing the things that I want to do, I feel like I already won in life. What I do now is I just try to enjoy life. Enjoy my family, enjoy what God gave me, which is a great talent to do the things I am capable of doing. So, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the season. I can’t really explain it to you, but it’s like 10 years ago. Hoe I’m like pumped up for training camp and I never get excited about training camp. I am excited to run out of the tunnel the first night at the Staple Center and get the first introduction.
HT: And the excitement you are going to feel once you feel that ‘my God we’re really finally gelling together!’
HT: Because the expectations are that you guys are going to win more then 70 games!
KM: Well, I know. The expectations are huge. So, there is going to be some teams out there that will tells us we are not. But the expectations are huge.
HT: Exactly. It happens that the western conference was loaded for a couple of years, but now even more loaded!
KM: And a lot of teams re-loaded.
HT: People have always looked at you as a real nice guy, opinionated and honest. And you’ve always remained faithful to help fulfill the dreams of a small market team. But have you always had the ambition of one day playing in the spotlight in a big city like New York, Chicago, or LA with national exposure?
KM: That’s why I did it now. Everything is timing.
KM: I just feel that the time was right. I just feel this was the time to make a move and not look back five and ten years from now and say I should have.
KM: This was a perfect time for me to move and I did it the way I wanted to do it which was with a lot of class. And I took the initiative to do a lot of things myself and that’s why I’m here right now, because this is how I wanted to do it
HT: Right. So, you’re just open to the way life came about, because had you guys won the championships in 1998 with Utah, you may not be thinking that way now?
KM: I probably would have though. But sometimes change is good.
HT: I don’t know if you are familiar with the sports talk show world, but there’s a lot of positives and a lot of negatives about your signing. Some of them are saying things like ‘Karl Malone and Gary Payton are basically trading their salaries to buy a championship’.
KM: No! If we’re buying a championship, then maybe we wrote a checque! You’re not buying a championship taking a pay-cut!
HT: You’ve still got to earn it right? No one’s giving you nothing!
KM: You ain’t buying a championship and taking a pay-cut!
KM: How refreshing is it for the fans out there to say it isn’t about the money anymore? It’s truly about a team to winning a championship. Focus on that! We’re not buying anything. We’re the ones that gave up the money! Is that buying?And if my memory serves me correctly, I am going to be playing 30-35 minutes a night and so is GP. So, we are going to earn it! So, for all those guys….those’re guys that wish they could have did what me and Gary is doing now. But they didn’t have the balls to do it. And they let somebody else tell them what to do.
HT: This is unprecedented isn’t it? You can’t think back in NBA…
KM: Right. You can’t think back, but you tell me that we did not pick out one or two fans about what we did? True fans! It is about winning. It’s not about the money all time. So, they didn’t have anything to write about but that. Those Clowns that are saying that is the ones that have no balls! And they get behind the mike and the TV and they can talk about it, but when they see you in your face then they all buddy buddy with ‘ya. So, I’ll say they’re little punks!
HT: You know, that’s a great thing you said about, winning fans over, because I am a New York fan.
HT: LA has always been to me a show boating team. They’re great players, Kobe and Shaq, but fans leave in the third quarter and so forth. But with what you guys did makes me want to come out and watch the games and root for you.
KM: Well, the thing about it is. It don’t happen. Like you said, I can’t see what negative you can say about what Gary and I did, because it never have happened in sports!
KM: How about never happened in sports?! Why you gotta make a negative spin on it? We did something that have never happened!
KM: And probably will never happen again. So, why don’t you say “This is great for the NBA” and what they needed. ‘Not these guys are trying to buy a championship and trying to do all of that’.
HT: You say it like it is man. That’s cool.
KM: I don’t be bullshittin’man.
HT: Now you are regarded as the greatest power forward in NBA history. We talked about the sacrifice you made to win the title.
KM: But you know what
HT: But now would you feel your career is incomplete if you don’t win the championship?
KM: Well, why do you think I did what I did? I go to Arkansas and I train in 90-95degree heat out there. I’m not doing that just to show up to the season in good shape. I’m not doing it just to make the playoffs. I’m doing it to win a championship. I wouldn’t have went through all this if I felt that my career would have been complete by not winning a championship. I made this move to win a championship. But it don’t say it is going to happen. And if it don’t happen I can be the first one to say, “ You know what, I tried something that 95 percent of the people wouldn’t even dare try. If you look at the BIG picture. So, that why I did what I did. And you know what , respect that! And for all those people out there that’s negative, respect that! Because they didn’t have the balls to do it. You know, they didn’t have the balls to do it. I did! Gary did! So, why do you respect it and stop hating! That’s all you have to do. Because it don’t happen in sports! Commissioner Stern got to be smiling from here to here, ‘cause it’s refreshing!
HT: I know you’ve been critical of the league from time to time. But right now what you’re doing makes the product better. And it says something for Commissioner Stern and the NBA that we got athletics like this
KM: When you look at all the negative going on now, they need this.
HT: I don’t know if you’re familiar with Paul Kariya?
KM: Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. They used to play together in Anaheim? Kariya took the one-five?
HT: But they’re still young.
HT: And there going to make theirs. They’re probably not going to make up what they lost this year.
KM: Now the Jazz got $27 million and nobody want it!
HT: They tried to get Cory Maggette, right?
KM: Any they offered me $5 million. That’s what they wanted to pay me. Then I saw what they were offering some these other guys they were trying to get. Are you kidding me? I just seen the day they traded Keown Clarke (laughs)! Figure that one out.
HT: So, you don’t dwell on the dough that you’ll probably never make up. We’re talking upwards of maybe $30-$50 million dollars.
KM: Don’t get me wrong. Hold on, yes.
HT: Some team might have signed you up for four years?
KM: Yes. I’m not blowing it off. If you got 30 million, you want 40 million, if you have 40, you want 50! No, I am not blowing it off, because its huge. But at this point…
HT: You are going to get endorsements and ….
KM: You hope so!
HT: But it’s still not going to make up a $18 million loss.
KM: Right. I like to say you hope to get endorsements. It don’t say I get endorsements, I’m saying you hope you do. But somewhere in life, you draw the line.
HT: It’s not about the money?
KM: It’s not about the money! That’s what I’m saying. How can anybody turn this into a negative because it’s not about the money. It’s about team, it’s about wanting to win a championship. It’s about putting yourself in a position to maybe win a championship. That’s what I chose to do. And people have to respect that. Or they should!
HT: We have to admire you for not playing for the buck, or the points! You’re rolling the dice for life.
HT: Because you might make up that money from a movie opportunity or something?
KM: Might! I never count my chicken before they hatch. Of course, that would be awesome. If it was in the real world, I’d been in action movies, all over the place, and I’ll make up that money. But I’m a realist, and it might not happen. So, I am prepared either way. I know what I want! But what you want you don’t always get! I want a championship, but there’re 28 other teams out there that say they don’t want you to have one. And I want to have a movie career, but it might not happen. That’s how I am as a person, you know. But I’m not content, I’m content with life, but I’m not content with my profession, because I want a championship. And that’s why I did what I did. And if all the other stuff come along with it, it would just be gravy, it would be awesome!
HT: You know the fans are so sour with baseball, they’re all complaining about the, it a big deal that Ken Griffey got 14 million instead of 20 million. That was a big deal! That he took that kind of pay-cut per year.
KM: But look how they booed him? When he got hurt they booed him. In his home! That’s unbelievable.
HT: It’s not always their fault, but fans are just generally down on sports. The move you’re making is a tremendous gesture to sports isn’t it?
KM: I think as a whole.
HT: Would you encourage that for other top athletics to do that?
KM: I can’t encourage any other athlete! Only you know what you what to do, only you know in your heart what you want to do. No, I can’t encourage it. I can only control me and what I do. I can’t encourage anybody else to do anything other than what they want to do. And you can’t make them do that. That’s something they’re going to have to want to do themselves.
HT: The Lakers are doing what George Steinbrenner does with the Yankees, except they’re not spending George Steinbrenner cash!
KM: Well, because they got it all in two guys pocket, and you have to realize it, respect that, and go on. Things can happen, they will if they want. The decision has been made and it’s been done, and you go from there.
HT: And lets not forget, just like a college junior, instead of coming out and making all that money, decided to stay all four years for the experience, but he might get hurt. Have a career-ending injury, and that could happen to you guys. People don’t even think about that!
KM: No, they don’t talk about that. It’s amazing!
HT: People aren’t even talking about that! What if GP gets hurt, or you get hurt?
KM: That’s what I said, everybody said we’re supposed to win a championship. All of us have go to stay healthy. You’re right. We are rolling the dice. Big dice Vegas is 7/11. That’s why I picked number 11, ‘cause it’s a lucky number.
HT: So, you’re going for the 11 are you?
KM: Yeah. (laughs)
HT: Oh, that’s beautiful! So, you didn’t want to take # 32?
KN: No. Because out of respect to Magic! That’s the ultimate respect to say that his jersey is retired for a reason, and I don’t have the right to come in and take that jersey down. I want that jersey to stay up there. That’s my ultimate respect to him.
HT: But that’s some gesture that he made to you though?
KM: Ya! That was a hell of a gesture he made to me. He let me know how bad he wanted me here. But I wanted to show him how much he meant to the league by returning the gesture.
HT: That’s like Joe DiMaggio saying, ‘hey take my number, kid.’
KM: Oh yeah, absolutely! What he done for the league, it don’t deserve to come down. For me or anybody else. It deserves to stay up there. So, that’s why I did what I did.
HT: But it’s mind boggling that four out of five players on the floor are going to be first ballot Hall of Famers! Its more then ‘Showtime’, or Bird’s Celtics or even MJ’s Bulls.
KM: Now what we’ve got t do is go out there and put it together
HT: right. Now you guys got to go out and do it. But the rest of the team, right now, its week lot, in my opinion. I watch the NBA, you know, compared to the rest of the western conference teams. There a lot of players who have done very well to win the championships and fit in with Kobe and Shaq. But still they’re barely B plus players?
KM: Well, that’s why we gotta make sure.
HT: That why its not a given. No one is giving you anything.
KM: That’s right, nobody’s giving us anything!
HT: Even those guys have to play better than they ever did.
KM: Right. And we have to play even better!
HT: Give me your assessment of what your rivals San Antonio, Sacramento, Houston?
KM: Oh, they got better! Every team in the west.
HT: Is there any particular that you think have done excellent.
KM: I think all of them have. I definitely Minnesota have done better. That’s why nothing is a shoe in. It is going to be some exciting basketball this year. And like I said, we’ve got to be ready to play every night. But they’ve gotten better as well. So, we realize that.
HT: Houston’s just going to keep getting better and better.
KM: Yeah. Houston is going to get better and better. Phoenix’ young, up and coming team. The whole west is going to be tough. I’ll say it again, the team that win it in the West, could win the championship again. So, it is going to be tough.
HT: San Antonio, I think they did the right thing not going for Kidd, and instead getting deeper. It’s almost in preparation for you guys, really. I know you don’t want to talk about Kobe’s situation.
KM: No. no.
HT: But should Kobe not be available, or if his availability is limited. How do you think you guys will handle a situation where there is already an existing power struggle between Phil Jackson, Kobe and Shaq? And what if Kobe has to be in and out during the season?
KM: Well, we’re going to support Kobe, no matter what as a team. He’s not going to be in this thing by himself. He got a support system that we‘re going to give him, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to dwell on what happened in the past, we’re going to help him get through a tough situation. And we are going to be there for him when he needs us. That’s my assessment. And me, when I’m your friend, I’m your friend for life! I’m your friend from now on, not just tomorrow or the next day, it’s for life! That’s who I am. Even though I’m just coming into this situation, that’s who I’m going to be.
HT: You know, having talked to you for a few minutes, these questions that I came up with are generally negative but it seems to like these situations are not even going to be a problem for you? Because you’re going to be there to support him.
HT: People are worrying about whether there might be chemistry problems, but if you made this kind of sacrifice there ain’t going to be no selfness!
KM: I knew all this going into it. The most selfish act you can have is money. Greed. I eliminated that already. So, it is not about that. A guy don’t need you when he’s scoring 40 points and hit the game winning a jumper. A guy needs you now, and what he’s going through now. That’s when he needs you. That’s when you get stronger as a man, it’s not when he’s scoring 40 and making 20 million in endorsements, and 15 to 20 million from the Lakers. That’s not when he needs you, a guy needs you when he’s down and out. That’s when I’m there for him!
HT: How about in terms of adjusting your game? You won’t be getting as many touches.
KM: Hey, I’ll adjust my game. Like I said, I go back to selfishness. I knew what I was getting into before I did. It’s not going to be ‘I need more shots, or I need this’.
HT: With you rebounding, my God!
KM: Rebounding. And I’m going to run the floor. And I’m going to make Shaq run the floor. If he don’t run the floor, I’ll be getting the lay-up.
HT: Potentially this could be absolutely dynamite!
KM: It could be. But I’ll tell you what, I ‘m going to come in shape, and hopefully he do to, because we’re going to push the ball. And I want to be one of the first down the floor!
At age forty! So, if you’re 28 or 29 year old and you want a 40 year old be down on the floor before you, I’m not going to look bad, you are. So, we’re going to see.
HT: How many more years do you think guys like Barry Bonds and yourself could play? I mean you guys are practically in your peak!
KM: I don’t know. Barring injuries, who knows!
HT: As long as you’re enjoying the game?
KM: Enjoying the game. It’s like I got a new lease on life, right now so who knows.
HT: Right now it looks like you have a whole bunch of years?
KM Right! So, I’m just going to see what happens. But its like this, I want them to want me as well as I want them. And when you do that and you have that combination, who knows how long you can play? Playing with Shaq and Kobe might take years off my career. So that’s just going to be one of those things.
HT: You’ve had a lot of experience against Phil Jackson teams, what has your opinion been of him?
KM: I always respected coach. As a coach and a person. And I like his philosophy, and I buy into it. And I am a veteran and I adjust to the situation. But I’ve never had any problems with him away from anything else. Just been great and a smooth transition and like I said, I am excited about the opportunity to learn things from him. I go into this situation almost as a rookie. I’ve got to prove myself all over again. I am not expecting my teammates to warm up to me. I have a responsibility that I gotta’ warm up to them.
HT: Because you have to learn the whole system too right?
KM: Oh yeh. I never been a guy that studied tape but I’ve study some of the tapes already so, I’m ready for this. I’m ready for it already!
HT: Are there types of coaches that you tend to like more? Or are you just a person that just respects whoever is in authority?
KM: I respect whoever is in authority. It doesn’t matter what coach.
HT: Whether it’s Pat Riley or Jeff Van Gundy?
KM: I respect whoever is in authority , but there’s a lot of things I don’t need. Maybe a young guy do. So, as a coach, you gotta respect that as well.
HT: Know that you got 18 years under you belt.
KM: Right. I don’t need a whole lot of line drills and all that. I know what I need to do to get in shape. I don’t need head games being played because that’s not what I am all about.
HT: It about getting the job done.
HT: You know, this European trend, young European players coming in. There’s a big thing about people being critical about the young players not developing, because they don’t work on the fundamentals. Do you think the drafting of the young Europeans is a trend? You played with Kirilenko, who is excellent.
KM: If you look at what is happening now, those young European players know how to pass, dribble and shoot. While we over here as Americans ‘street ball’ between their legs, behind their back. That’s not getting it done! So, of course that is what’s going on. And the sooner we realize that the better off we will be but we’re not getting it done right.
HT: So, do you think there will be a backlash on this whole European player trend?
KM: Ain’t no doubt basketball is an American game, but now we have to go out and prove it. Seriously. Because I think they are definitely catching up with us.
P.10; That’s what I think. Because if the Dream Team could lose in the Olympics to the Yugoslavians.
KM: That wasn’t a real dream team. That was a fake. The Dream Team was number one and number 2. That we sent over there last year were imposters. (Laughs)
HT: Buy there’s going to be another one because you’re involved, right?
HT: Are you an emotionally guy? You talked about your loyalty to your friends and so forth.
KM: Yes. I’m an emotional guy. I’m a very sensitive guy. I do like to make people happy, I like to be happy. I try to be happy all the time, because people feed off me. I don’t like to be a guy that go around and mope, thinks somebody feel sorry for me. I like to make my own breaks, I don’t like nothing given to me. I like to think that I earned it. And I look into the mirror every night and say “You know what, I earned this”.
HT: So, Larry Miller (Utah Jazz owner), and your ex-coach, Jerry Sloan:. Is it sad to leave them? But still your friends forever?
KM: Sad to leave them, we’re friends forever, but it’s not my fault, it’s their fault.
HT: It is going to be strange for you not to be playing next to John Stockton?
KM: It’s going to be strange, but I got Gary Payton!
HT: You’re going to be so excited!
KM: I’ll go from one to the other, so I think that’s awesome.
HT: How important is the points record to you?
KM: Its important but
HT: The chances are you’re going to get there but might take a little longer?
KM: 12.8 points a game. I should be able to do that in two years.
HT: You got a nice grin on your face there. That would be a hell of an accomplishment though?
KM: It would be great accomplishment, but it would be a personal one that I don’t get caught up in.
HT: Can you talk a little bit about your daughter, Cheryl Ford?
KM: I’m very proud of her!
HT: She’s having a terrific year as a rookie in the WNBA.
KM: She’s awesome, man! When I see her play, its like, ‘god that’s my daughter right there!’ She’s awesome. Her Mom did an unbelievable job raising them. She has a twin brother, majored in Forrestry at Louisiana Tech. that’s going run our business one day. But I’m proud of all of them, and I’m proud of the career that she’s doing. I’m just happy for her and what she’s doing.
HT: She’ll be able to come out see you play out here now too?
HT: Man, everything is going great for you!
KM: I have my days. I have my moments.
HT: Isn’t it amazing you initially make that sacrifice. It’s a big sacrifice, $18 million dollars a year. But you look like the happiest guy in the world!
KM: I am making less, but no, don’t get me wrong its a lot of money, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, because I made this decision myself with my family. There wasn’t anybody dangling any carrot. Once it got close, a lot of teams came out of the woodwork, and started dangling a lot of things. But I stood firm to what I believe in and I came here and I am not looking back.
HT: Are you moving out of Utah completely?
KM: Well, we bought a home here.
HT: So, your house is on the market over there?
KM: Yeah, we put it on the market, but I build homes for a living too. I have a construction company.
HT: So, you can always have a place over there? You have a lot of businesses over there, right.
HT: What kind of businesses?
KM: I have Toyota-Honda dealership there. Real Estate company there. So, we’re gonna always call Utah home as well. We’ll be back and forth.
HT: Now the picture’s coming together. You’ve done very will over there, now you’re going to spread out over here too.
KM: Yes. That’s what life’s about. (Smiles)
HT: You are going to be like Magic Johnson!
KM: Right, right! Magic’s definitely a hero of mine. Like you said, I will be expanding a lot of things. Of course I want to get into acting, while I’m out here. We’ll see what happens, basketball first and all the other stuff will fall in line, once you do what you’re supposed to do and that’s play basketball.
HT: I know you like to drive to trucks and you like log and hunting and fishing and camping and all that kind of stuff. Its just the way this excitement being in LA, that sort of like the
KM: Yes. It’s the excitement, or whatever
HT: What kind of movies you think you want to do. I think you’d be great in something like “The Last Boy Scout”. Wasn’t a great movie but if you were in it with Bruce Willis it would have been great.
KM: Oh man, I would love to been in action packed movies! That’s something I’ve always thought about doing. I like to do some of my own stunts. Lot of stuff I would like to do. We’ve had opportunities, but I want the right situation. I just don’t what to do something just to say I did a movie. I want to do something that really means something and really matters.
HT: Even if you won two or three championships in Utah.
KM: I still had this ambition. I still had ambition to do this.
HT: I think in the past people had you wrong, you know, that you’re a serious guy, and you’re committed to basketball.
KM: I always had other interests other then basketball.
HT: People were surprised that you did that wrestling thing with Rodman.
KM: That’s what I wanted to do. I don’t go out to try to shock and surprise people. I go out to be myself. And that’s something I like to do. And that why I did what I did. When I’m ready to do something I do it, I don’t really get caught up in what people think or what they say, because this is what I want to do.
HT: I think you’ll be good in one of those Jim Brown roles.
KM: Yeah! I’m looking forward to it, but I ‘m not looking to do the ‘starring Karl Malone’, I just want pick and chose the roles that I’m in to become a great actor. I want it to matter. I do a small part this time, I want to do a bigger part next time. And that’s how I want to do it, I don’t want to be just thrown out there. I want to pick and chose the things I do. I have a great opportunity now that I’m kinda mix about because I don’t want to be that basketball player. I’d rather be a cop and have two or three lines and a basketball at 40 lines because I want to get away from that.
HT: And the other thing is, you got a great personality, you got great presence for film, it’s better for Hollywood to want you and let them spend their money rather than spend your own money to be in a movie like some athletes
KM: It just like an endorsement. You want the people that want you to come to you. You don’t want to call them. They know how to get in touch with you. The same thing here. If you want me in a role you’ll find me. If you don’t you won’t. It’s the same as when you’re endorsing a product. It’s the same thing. I am who I am, I’m not going to change because I’m in California. I’m going to be the same person I am.
HT: Did you even seen the movie call the “Amazing Grace and Chuck” with Alex English? That was a nice role.
KM: Yes. It was a nice role he had.
HT: He did a great job too. You be great at a role like that.
KM: I want action! Like “Predator” or “Sniper”.
HT: Who would you like to work with?
KM: Jackie Chang, Wesley Snipes, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover! I would like to work with those guys.
HT: Guy mostly, villains also?
KM: I would like to be really just a Bad Ass! Not a bad guy or good guy, just a Bad Ass. A nice guy but I could flip a switch like that!
HT: But you’d be great in Jim Brown kind of roles.
KM: I love war movies. I love that kind of stuff. “When We Were Soldiers” with Mel Gibson. “Black Hawk Down”, “Platoon”. I love war movies. I would love war action packed westerns. That was my favorites.
HT: You’re just so excited aren’t you?
KM; Oh, yeah!
HT: It’s all out here. You are in the right place.
KM: I’m excited but my focus is basketball. I feel that everything will come together after that.
HT: So you don’t think you’ll necessarily be more active with NRA activities because you’re out here now?
KM: I’ll be what they want me to be. I’m NRA! I am who I am. I’m not changing just because I’m here in California. I’m NRA. That’s what I believe in. I believe in rights to bare arms. Guns don’t kill people. It’s the people who’re using them.
HT: What would you consider your highlights? I know the Olympic gold was one of them.
KM: I think the Olympic gold was one. The second was the second Olympic gold. Those were my career highlights.
HT: And, of course, you could be 8 months away from your first NBA Championship?
KM: That would add to it. That would be the cream of the crop.
HT: Everything else is gravy!
HT: Oscar nomination! Everything else is gravy. Icing on the cake.
KM: ya (Laughs)
HT: Any regrets?
KM: Nope! I have no regrets.
KM: Because I think about thoroughly my decisions I make, and once I make ‘em. It’s like anything else. Me and my brother’s gotta saying we always say,
“It is what it is-deal with it!” and that’s what we do. That’s my saying. I don’t regret, no! It is what it is and I deal with it.
HT: Do you think you might want to get into commentating in basketball?
KM: I don’t know, but I won’t close the door on anything, but I’ll just see.
HT: I know you did a radio talk show, you’re a great talker.
KM: I love that! I love doing a talk show, but I’m not going say what I will and won’t do, I’m just going to let it happen and see.
HT: Yes, because you can do so many things and if you’re but if you’re busy with movies or something you’re not going to be able do any of that.
KM: But I just want to do smart things that’s going help or enhance my career, not, you know, make it bad. So I’m just going to pick and choose what I do.
HT: That’s beautiful. OK. Thanks very much.
KM: You bet!