The Fleeting Past

Basketball Legend Moses Malone died suddenly at age 60 of reported natural causes.

Sean Sendall

History is a fickle bi***. Memories and legacies are created, controlled, and occasionally contrived by those who write and speak most about them. Ever wonder what, if anything, is taught about the American Revolution in Britain? What about The Holocaust in Germany? Both events excite very specific, and opposing, feelings for most Americans.

Of course, these are extreme examples of how history is told and re-told through the ever-changing eyes of those who manipulate it. Historians are certainly not limited to World History, many will cast their positive or negative spin on sports history, as well.

On September 13, 2015 the basketball world lost one of its best to ever play the game. Yet, in the annals of history, for those who may not have been privileged enough to watch him first-hand, remains underrated and under-appreciated.

Moses Malone died suddenly at age 60 of reported natural causes; more specifically his death was caused by hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Virginia medical examiner’s office.

Today, Moses is most famous for his, “fo-fo-fo,” statement when asked to predict his Sixers’ playoff run in the 1982-83 NBA season, anticipating a clean sweep of all their opponents. Malone earned three NBA MVP Awards (1979, 1982, and 1983), and is one of only four players to top 25,000 points and 15,000 rebounds in their professional careers -Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elvin Hayes (talk about another underrated superstar) were the other three.

While his accomplishments and accolades will impress anyone who takes the time to look them over, it may have been his intangible qualities that set him apart in an era dominated by big men. Philadelphia had a talented team before Moses arrived, with Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks, but they were missing a strong big man and natural leader. Not only did Malone bring his talent to Philly, he also brought the bravado and leadership needed to, nearly, sweep three rounds in the playoffs, for the Sixers’ first championship since 1967. A mere two years later, it was Moses who mentored a young, fat Charles Barkley and lit a fire under him that led him to not only lose unnecessary weight, but become one of the all-time greats in his own right.

Yet, when asked to name the greatest players that ever stepped onto the hardwood, Moses is not, generally, one of the first five or ten names listed.

Let’s be even more specific:  Who were the best centers of all-time?

The first names listed are generally, Bill Russell, Wilt, and Kareem.  All great choices. How is it that Moses doesn’t even make the conversation?

There are eight players in NBA history who have won the MVP award three or more times. Six of which stake their claim in every conversation about an All-Time Top Ten and one of which his hotly debated -Kareem (6), Russell (5), Michael Jordan (5), Wilt (4), LeBron James (4), Larry Bird (3), Magic Johnson (3), and Moses (3). So, I ask again, why are six of these names steadfastly named when top list discussions arise, while the seventh (LeBron) is debated more hotly than Moses?

There’s nothing wrong with being outside the top-ten all-time in the NBA. It’s a list of incredibly gifted and talented players. I thought I knew the greatness of Moses, but it wasn’t until his death that I took a closer look. What he accomplished in the NBA may not be top-ten worthy, but don’t let history forget Moses. He was, unquestionably, one of the all-time greats and deserves to be in the discussion, regularly.

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