Moses Malone’s nickname was Big Mo for teammates and coaches to keep him straight from Little Mo, his teammate Maurice Cheeks. Writers often called Malone the Chairman of the Boards because he was one of the most dominant rebounders in NBA history. One writer called him Octobull but it never stuck.
Table of Contents
Why was Moses Malone’s Nickame Big Mo?
Moses Malone was called Big Mo in part because it was a simple shortening of his name Moses. The Big part probably made sense long before he was traded to Philadelphia in 1982.
Malone was a 6’10” 260 pound giant-of-a-man, even by outsized NBA standards. So I could see calling him BIG Mo on those grounds alone.
But after kicking around the financially-strapped ABA for a few years out of high school, Moses settled in on the Houston Rockets. There, he won 2 NBA MVP awards and began to dominate.
After his second MVP, Moses was due for a pay increase but the new owners of the Houston Rockets did not want to pay him. He was traded to Philadelphia for Caldwell Jones and a 1st round pick in what can only be called a seriously one-sided swap.
At that point the Sixers were coming off a Finals loss to the Lakers and needed front court help to slow down Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Moses provided all the help they needed.
That Sixers team was on the brink of greatness already with Dr. J, Andrew Toney and a certain Maurice Cheeks providing great defense and scoring from the outside. Maurice Cheeks, of course, was known as Mo.
With the addition of Moses Malone, Cheeks became Little Mo and Moses became Big Mo. Along with the rest of that incredible Sixers squad, they went on to crush the league in ‘82-’83.
Before the ‘83 playoffs, Big Mo made his most famous prediction: fo, fo, fo. He meant the Sixers would sweep all 3 playoff rounds. He was not far off.
With the exception of a single loss to the Bucks, they did just that. The win cemented the legend of Big Mo.
Maurice Cheeks was often simply called Mo after his days with Moses Malone ended. But Moses stayed Big Mo right up until his death.
According to Dell Harris, who coached him at various stops, throughout his life Malone would begin each voice message he left him by saying it’s “Mo. Big Mo.”
Why Was Moses Malone’s Nickname Chairman of the Boards?
Moses got the nickname Chairman of the Boards for his incredible rebounding ability. Malone was one of the all-time greatest rebounders to ever live.
Malone led the NBA 6 times in rebounding. He finished his career fifth in NBA history in total rebounds behind a few guys who could play a bit: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Elvin Hayes.
If you want to use advanced stats, Big Mo was 9th in the history of the league in total rebound percentage. There are only two retired players above him on the list, so it seems likely most of those ahead of him will slip below him by the time they hang them up.
The area where Big Mo was insanely dominant was offensive rebounding. Moses retired with 6731 offensive rebounds: more than five per game!
The next player on the list, the truly excellent Robert Parish, had only 68% of the offensive rebounds Moses did. The player with 68% of Kareem’s NBA record for points, Kevin Garnett, finished 18th on the all-time scoring list!
Not only does Moses have the record, he ran so far away with it that it may never be broken. And I am not even counting another 500 offensive rebounds he grabbed in the ABA!
Moses Malone most certainly earned the nickname Chairman of the Boards by being one of, if not the, greatest rebounders to ever play basketball.
Why was Moses Malone’s Nickname Octobull?
If you look his stats up at Basketball Reference, you’ll see they say he was called Octobull. I can find few mentions of that, but one of the two I did find is so great I had to use it.
In The 1984 Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball, which included articles written by one of my favorite basketball writers Bob Ryan, they put the label Octobull on Moses Malone.
They said Moses was an “‘Octobull’–a cross between an octopus and a bull…(he)Simply wears out defenders, then dominates them in (the)fourth quarter…The most dominating player since Wilt Chamberlain.”
That is both incredibly high praise and one amazing nickname. An octopus would be tough enough to play against, but an octobull would be damn near impossible to face!
I wish the name somehow had stuck better. Alas, it did not. I can find one other reference to the name in a Medium article on basketball stats, and I strongly suspect they found and loved the same Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball article that I did.
Imagine being called Octobull! But even Moses Malone was only called that in one article, near as I can tell.
Summary: Moses Malone’s Nickname
Moses Malone’s friends, teammates, and coaches called him Big Mo both because he was a big man and to differentiate him from teammate Mo Cheeks. Headline writers loved to call him the Chairman of the Boards because he was one of the greatest rebounders to ever play the game. Sadly, only one real article seems to have called him Octobull.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.