Between ESPN’s "The Last Dance" and the need for content during the coronavirus pandemic, NBA legends are coming out of the woodwork.
Media outlets are chasing some of the biggest stars from the 1990s to chat about Michael Jordan, the Bulls dynasty and the Dream Team. Those conversations are opening up even more areas of conversation.
On a recent episode of Barstool's Pardon My Take, legendary NBA power forward Karl Malone stopped in for a video podcast. To call the set up strange would be an understatement.
Malone, sitting shirtless with some sort of dead animal fashioned into a hat in a room filled with big game hunting exploits, gave his opinion on a myriad of subjects. The hosts of the show also chose to remove their shirts, for at least part of the interview.
Like he did during his playing days, Malone threw some elbows in a bizarre Old Spice commercial meets Joe Exotic interview.
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Of his many claims, many of which were spot on, Malone listed three fellow power forwards who had more God-given ability than he did, but didn’t quite reach the same level of play.
“I’m going to tell you three guys that had more talent than Karl Malone -- Chris Webber, Derrick Coleman and Charles Barkley,” Malone said. “More talent. More talent. But, they didn’t outwork me.”
Malone began lifting weights during his time at Louisiana Tech. He was an NBA strongman and the use of weight training helped him stay healthy and on the court during his 19-season Hall of Fame career.
“I would never use the term, ‘He was better than me,’” Malone explained. “More talented is different.”
Barkley is already in the Hall of Fame alongside Malone. Coleman was a really good player for about half of his 15 year career, but he never lived up to the billing that came with being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft.
Webber’s career was filled with twists and turns, but like Malone admitted, his talent was undeniable. Webber’s run with the Kings in the late 1990s and early 2000s elevated him to superstar status, although it was short lived due to a catastrophic knee injury during the 2003 NBA playoffs.
Of the players mentioned, Coleman has no chance of making the Hall of Fame due to some personality quirks and the way his game fell off so dramatically at the midway point.
Webber has been passed over during the last few years, but there is no question that he has Hall of Fame credentials.
On the latest edition of the Purple Talk podcast, two of Webber’s former teammates in Bobby Jackson and Doug Christie spoke of him as a teammate. Both believe the five-time All-Star is more than deserving of enshrinement into the Hall.
“He set the tone of being unselfish and I think that speaks to who he was even more,” Christie said. “Undoubtedly, in opinion, he’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt.”
With an unselfishness on the court, the Kings were the greatest show on court. They moved the ball with a freedom and creativity that has rarely been matched, and Webber’s skill set fit perfectly into the system.
“For me, I think Chris was way more talented than [Malone],” Jackson said. “I think Karl had a more polished Hall of Fame career.”
“Chris, I think, is one of the most talented big men I’ve ever seen with his ball handling, his shooting, his passing and he was also a great teammate,” Jackson added.
According to Jackson, the team knew that Webber was their leader. During his time in Sacramento, the Kings were a perennial playoff team, making it as far as the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
“I think he is a Hall of Famer, if you look at his numbers, if you look at his career,” Jackson said. “He didn’t win an NBA championship here in Sacramento, but he allowed us the glory and he gave us a gust of wind that we needed to be relevant.”
There was a stretch where the Kings were considered the best team in basketball, but that all came to an abrupt end when Webber took a bad step on May 8, 2003 and needed microfracture surgery on his left knee.
Webber would go on to play parts of five seasons in the league after the injury, but he was never the same player and was forced to retire during the 2007-08 season at the age of 35.
“He couldn’t practice because his knee was inflamed, but man, he would come out and get you 20 and 10 like it was nothing,” Jackson said. “He wasn’t really moving, he didn’t have the explosiveness, but just imagine if he was healthy and he had the lift ... the damage he would have done.”
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Webber’s career stats clearly state his case for enshrinement. When he retired, he was one of five players in NBA history to average more than 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game. The other four players are Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird and Billy Cunningham.
It should be noted that during the Kings’ 35 seasons in Sacramento, they have made the postseason 10 times. Seven of those times, Webber started the season on the roster.