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Stockton-to-Malone Week: The Mailman did a lot of good

August 12, 2010
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Days from now, Karl Malone will join John Stockton and Jerry Sloan in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Let’s fete and honor the greatest duo in NBA history with Stockton-to-Malone Week. S2M Week is brought to you by my digital pack ratting, est. circa 1995.

He goes through a pair of size-16 high-tops each game and then quietly donates most of the shoes to charity fund-raisers or has them presented to children. He is a frequent unannounced visitor to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. The Make-A-Wish Foundation presented him with a four-inch-thick folder of all the children he has met. Their photos and thank you notes fill each page. (“Stand and Deliver,” ESPN The Magazine 6/15/98)

Younger/newer Jazz fans are probably familiar with the story of how Karl brought 18 vehicles and and a crew from his logging company to a Mississippi town in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. During the two weeks they spent there, they worked 12-hour days and cleared 114 lots. They even brought all their own food, water, and supplies because “we didn’t want to take even one bottle of water away from these people.”

When the crew arrived, FEMA officials tried to stop them from bringing their equipment into the area because they didn’t have “authorization.”

Malone says landowners were told that debris had to be moved out to the street before it could be hauled away. “How is a landowner who just lost everything going to pay $15,000 or $20,000 to have a lot cleared? I mean, there were two or three houses on top of one another in some places.”

This put Malone in the middle of territorial disputes with private contractors. …

“Once I get in my machine, no one is going to get me out,” he says. “We just said ‘the hell with it.’ FEMA didn’t approve, but we did it for the people.” (USA Today)

When it comes to Karl and doing good, there’s a hell of a lot more. Take it away, Neil Warner.

My most memorable Malone encounter came in Portland just minutes after Utah’s season ended in the second round of the 2000 playoffs at the Rose Garden. …

After Malone finished his interviews, he walked down the hallway and noticed a Portland fan who must have been 12 or 13. He was in a wheelchair and accompanied by his parents. He had a Trail Blazers jersey on and a game program.

The boy got the courage up to tell Malone good game. The Mailman responded by giving the boy his wrist bands. He then sent an usher back to the locker room to get a Jazz hat, which he autographed and gave the boy. He posed for a picture with the family and continued to talk with the boy for another five minutes.

There were no TV cameras around. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only media member who saw the exchange.

This was hardly out of character for Malone, who has been making an impact off the court for years, even if no one knows about it.

It was Malone who drove a truckload of supplies ($200,000 worth) to an Indian Reservation in Utah.

It was Malone who knocked on the Christensen family’s door one day with a check to pay off their house. The Christensens lived in Sandy and had four children who suffered from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy and were knee deep in medical bills.

It was Malone who noticed one time at a game that there was a woman in the stands who was crying. He asked one of the coaches to find out what was wrong. It turns out her best friend’s child just died and her husband thought taking her to a Jazz game would help take her mind off of the tragedy.

It didn’t work.

So Malone sent over an autographed pair of shoes and later personally delivered his wrist bands.

It was Malone who visited a boy who was injured in a four-wheeler accident. Malone took the watch of his wrist and said, “This is my favorite watch. I want you to have it. When you get better, I want you to come to a game and you can give it back to me.”

A few months later the boy did as the Mailman asked.

Who can forget this?

And it was Malone who befriended a 13-year-old boy named Danny Ewing, who was suffering from leukemia. Despite his efforts to keep the friendship private, the media picked up on their relationship and was on hand to get a rare glimpse of Malone’s work off the court.

Malone invited Danny to the Olympics and to his private birthday party. He gave the boy and the boy’s mother his wife’s seats at the Jazz playoff games and spoke at his funeral when Danny died. [Karl was also a pallbearer.]

This week, the Sporting News celebrates the good things athletes do.

For me, it comes just in time.

(“Malone deserves recognition as sports good guy,” Daily Herald, July 9, 2003)

Two more stories:

And that game this season he was forced to miss because of a suspension from the league? Prohibited from watching in person, he instead used the night to personally deliver one of his purchases, a handicapped-ready van, to a family in need in town.

(“Merry Malone: Once-surly forward finds joy on court,” Sacramento Bee, 2/18/2001)

In 1998, Malone and Stockton discovered that a Delta Center security guard was quitting because of family concerns. When the guard got home after his final shift, he discovered phone messages from both Malone and Stockton, offering assistance.

(“Special Delivery: The Amazing Basketball Career of Karl Malone” by Clay Latimer)

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