Even though Karl Malone is widely regarded as one of the best power forwards in the history of the NBA, the one asterisk in his career is that he never won a championship. "The Mailman" had a long and glorious career, notching 14 All-Star nods, 14 All-NBA picks, and even 2 MVP awards, as he was best known as the other half of the iconic Utah Jazz duo of him and John Stockton. Quite possibly, the best pick and roll duo in the game dominated the NBA for years but never managed to get over that final hump.
Malone had his share of duels with Jordan
But in 1997 and 1998, the duo was inches away from winning it all, only to be stopped by Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls for two consecutive years. Those fierce battles resulted in heartbreaking losses for Malone and the Jazz, creating a particular animosity between him and MJ.
The two never had bad blood, but after Malone won 2x MVPs over Jordan, things got personal, leading to MJ giving it his all to ensure he got the championship over Malone. It was classic MJ stuff, as Malone obviously still remembers the rivalry between the two.
Back in 2013, while concluding an interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Malone was asked to share his all-time starting five. His choice would be fascinating, to say the least:
"Okay, I'm not going to be in it. My all-time starting five, I got to have Wilt Chamberlain at centre, got to have John Stockton as my point guard, got to have LeBron James. I'm going to put LeBron James at my power forward position. He could be a tough matchup…Now, I got to put Oscar Robertson at my two-guard. My other guy… I'mma shock the world. I have to put Scottie Pippen as the three. Let me tell you why. Scottie Pippen led the team in every statistical category when he was there without Michael Jordan."
Karl Malone, via Dan Patrick Show
Malone's favorite starting lineup is somewhat surprising
So as Malone snubbed MJ from his all-time five, his team would consist of:
PG- John Stockton
SG- Oscar Robertson
SF- Scottie Pippen
PF- LeBron James
C- Wilt Chamberlain
That's a tremendous and unique all-time five from Malone, but you have to admit it is one of the rare not to include Michael Jordan in it. Of course, people will assume MJ got left off due to Malone and him having that rivalry and Finals battles. Still, Karl explained how Scottie deserves it more because he led the Bulls in every significant statistical category. It's no secret that Pippen was the quiet force behind the Bulls and very underappreciated, but to put him above MJ is a far stretch.
Also, the pick of Big 0 over the likes of Kobe and MJ is up for debate. With the rest, I can live. Also, despite being one of the best players, the fact that he left himself off shows a bit of humility in Malone's nature. Anyway, a fascinating choice from one of the all-time great players.