SALT LAKE CITY -- As much as he tried to credit others,
Thursday in Utah was all about Karl Malone.
The Jazz honored Malone on Thursday by retiring his No. 32 and
unveiling a bronze statue of the power forward who played 18 of his
19 NBA seasons in Utah.
The "Mailman," the second-leading scorer in NBA history,
grinned at the pregame statue ceremony and again at halftime of the
game against Washington when the jersey was unveiled.
Malone thanked the Jazz for taking him with the 13th pick in the
1985 NBA draft and his former teammates, who helped him score
36,928 career points.
"I realize you knew where the ball was going all the time and
you accepted it. Thank you," Malone said at halftime.
Appropriately enough, Malone's number hangs right next to former
point guard John Stockton's No. 12. Malone's statue also stands
just a few feet from one of Stockton, just off the corner where
John Stockton Drive and Karl Malone Drive intersect southeast of
The pick-and-roll combination is now permanently fixed in
"It all worked because of the big fella in the middle,"
Stockton kept his remarks short, as usual, and Malone had the
spotlight as he was warmly greeted by the fans. The standing
ovation during the halftime ceremony lasted several minutes.
Malone, dressed in black from his boots to cowboy hat, had a
wide grin through both celebrations and was joined by his wife and
Malone also thanked the fans and the state of Utah, which he
mistakenly referred to as a city after he was drafted.
"I realize now, 20 years later, that it's a state," Malone
said, poking fun at himself.
The statues are encircled by two rings of bronze plaques listing
the accomplishments of Malone and Stockton.
"We had a tough time narrowing it down to what we have," Jazz
owner Larry Miller said.
Stockton and Malone spent part of the day arguing over who made
who better, each giving the other credit. Stockton is the NBA's
career leader in assists and steals. Malone scored more points than
anybody other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
But without Malone there to complete the pick-and-roll, Stockton
doesn't get 15,806 career assists. Without Stockton's passes,
Malone wouldn't have scored as many points as he did.
"Those numbers are way out there and if just a few things
changed, he could have put them out there even further," Stockton
Malone, sixth on the career rebounding list, was also the
league's MVP in 1997 and 1999 and he and Stockton led the Jazz to
the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, losing to Michael Jordan and the
Before the ceremony, Malone spoke for himself and Stockton and
said they didn't look back on coming up just short of an NBA title.
Malone also said he didn't regret leaving the Jazz for one season
with the Los Angeles Lakers and a final run at a championship after
Stockton retired in 2003.
"We don't wish. That's just not who we are," Malone said.