Karl Malone is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play in the NBA. He has great career stats and won a ton of NBA awards including MVP. So you might wonder whether Malone was able to win an NBA championship during his career. In this blog post, we will explore Karl Malone’s career and answer the question: did Karl Malone win a championship?
The short answer is no, Karl Malone never won an NBA championship despite making two NBA Finals. He was defeated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in both of those finals appearances.
Karl Malone’s Development as an NBA StarEmbed from Getty Images
Karl Malone was born on July 24, 1963, in Summerfield, Louisiana. After growing up in Louisiana, he stayed home to play college basketball at Louisiana Tech University
At Louisiana Tech, Malone was a force to be reckoned with almost instantly. During his freshman year, he averaged 18.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
He continued to improve over the next three years, and by his senior year, he was averaging 24.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He led the NCAA in rebounding that year and was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year.
Malone was twice chosen as an All American at Louisiana Tech. He was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1985 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz.
Just like his smooth transition from high school to college, Malone did not take long to establish himself as a dominant force in the NBA.
He was a physical and tenacious player who was known for his toughness, rebounding, and scoring ability. Those traits made the leap to the NBA a smooth one for Malone.
During his first season with the Jazz, Malone averaged 14.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.Embed from Getty Images
The Jazz continued to improve with Malone on the team, making the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. In the 1987-88 season, Malone averaged 27.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, leading the Jazz to their first-ever playoff series win.
The team’s success continued over the next few years, with Malone becoming one of the top players in the league.
He became one of the NBA’s highest scorers and rebounders and was named to the All-NBA 1st Team for the first time in 1989. That season, he averaged 29.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game and led the Jazz to the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Utah Jazz in the 1990s
In the 1990s, Malone and the Jazz became one of the NBA’s elite teams. Along with his teammate John Stockton, Malone formed one of the most formidable duos in NBA history.
The two players had a rare chemistry on the court and led the Jazz to the playoffs in each of the next ten seasons. Stockton was small in stature but still held up on the defensive end in addition to being one of the best passers in NBA history.
Besides Malone and Stockton, the Jazz had a solid supporting cast that included players like Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, and Greg Ostertag.
They were coached by Jerry Sloan, a Hall of Famer who was known for his no-nonsense approach and his emphasis on tough defense and physical play.
Sloan’s teams were blue collar. They relied on grit, determination and teamwork rather than flashy offense or individual stardom.
The Jazz also played in a smaller market and often went overlooked by the national media, but they were beloved by their fans and respected by their peers.
During the 1990s the team steadily built up towards an NBA championship. They made three Western Conference Finals in the early to mid part of the decade. They lost each time but were becoming a real contender for an NBA Championship.Embed from Getty Images
They finally broke through in the 1997 NBA playoffs, defeating an aging Houston Rockets team featuring a stunning, but past-their-prime, trio of Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Unfortunately for the Jazz, they faced another tough trio in the Finals: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The Bulls were too much for the Stockton/Malone duo and took the series in six games.
The next year was quite similar for the Jazz. They swept Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. But, once again, the Jazz fell short vs MJ’s Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals in six games.
During the 1990s, Malone continued to put up impressive numbers. He won the NBA MVP award twice (in 1997 and 1999) and was named to the All-NBA First Team six times. He and Stockton led the Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time ever.
But, ultimately, Karl Malone and the Jazz never did win a championship. While some observers will claim that is a mark against the Jazz, some part of winning a title comes down to timing and luck.
The Jazz hit their peak when Jordan and his Bulls were in the midst of one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.
Karl Malone’s Legacy
Despite these disappointments, Malone continued to play at a high level. He was named to the All-NBA First Team for the final time in 1999 and remained one of the league’s top players until his retirement in 2004.
Over the course of his career, Malone averaged 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game and was named an All-Star 14 times. He was, of course, an easy choice for the basketball Hall of Fame.
While Karl Malone never won a championship, his on-court legacy is nearly beyond reproach.
His legacy off the court is quite different. In a post-me-too era, a light has been shined on the misdeeds of the Mailman.
Malone fathered a child in 1983 at the age of twenty. The mother of that child was a child herself at the age of thirteen. Malone went on to deny paternity and behave poorly toward his own child for years to come. This is hardly his only misdeed.
Suffice to say, not winning an NBA championship is clearly not one of the worst things one can say about the Mailman.
Did Karl Malone Win A Championship? Summary
Karl Malone did not win an NBA championship despite being one of the very best players to ever live. Malone and his partner John Stockton led the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998. But they ran into the buzzsaw that was Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls and lost both times.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.