When asked who was the first person to “welcome” him to the NBA and bust his behind, Hall of Famer Karl Malone listed two former Portland Trail Blazers legends.
Karl Malone is one of toughest players to ever roam the NBA hardwood. So, when Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson of the Players Tribune’s Knuckleheads Pod asked him their customary first question — “Who was the first player to bust your (behind) in the NBA” — one had to know that this player was tough, rugged, and respected. The Jazz legend named two players, both of which earned their stripes as Portland Trail Blazers legends.
"“Aw okay, two of them, by the way. Oh yeah. Buck Williams. Maurice Lucas. They both was power forwards. We in Portland, the night before my first night, the first night I started, was against Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and them. That was my first start in the Salt Palace. Then, we go to Portland, and I’ll never forget it.You know, you get them lathered up. I never will forget it. I scored an and-one, and kind of bumped Maurice Lucas, kind of walking back to the free throw line. I bumped Maurice Lucas. Not Buck Williams. So he came up and had some words, so when Maurice Lucas came back up to me he said, ‘Hey, look here. Don’t embarrass me and do that shi— no more.’ This the only thing that came out of my mouth as a rookie, ‘Uh, yes sir.’But those two guys … it’s crazy because they was like real power forwards. Like, coming into it, you put that on your calendar. I didn’t know that both of them started. So, you’re out of the fire into the frying pan. But then you start playing, and then you realize like man, ‘I think I’m good enough to play this game.’"
Based on research, the Hall of Famer could be a few remiss on his details. In Malone’s rookie season in 1985-86, Lucas was a Los Angeles Laker, and Williams was a New Jersey Net. In fact, the two never played alongside one another.
But, this was 36 years ago, so any graininess on the details can be forgiven. Thinking bigger picture, the fact that Malone named not one, but two former Portland Trail Blazers bigs that put him in check is noteworthy, particularly given Malone’s reputation as one of the NBA’s strongest, no-nonsense-taking players of all-time.
It also speaks to the setting of the NBA at the time, and how respectful unestablished players were towards veterans.
Because Lucas and Williams never played with one other, it’ll be difficult tracking down which game Karl Malone is referring to. This first start at Salt Palace was actually an Oct. 30, 1985 game against Mike Mitchell’s San Antonio Spurs. He did play a back-to-back against Houston and Portland, but those were against the Drexler-Vandeweghe-Paxson Blazers.
Nonetheless, it comes as no surprise that the Portland Trail Blazers were the team that offered him the most stories to tell. Malone met the Blazers a whopping 76 times in his career in the regular season, and the Blazers handed him 19 losses in the postseason exclusively, one of the highest rates in NBA history.
In any case, it’s a neat anecdote for Blazers fans to put in their back pockets, knowing that one of, if not the greatest power forward of all-time showed that much respect for Portland.
Throughout the rest of the episode, he also discusses the ventures of the 1992 Dream Team, his epic duels with the Bulls, advice for Zion Williamson, and much more. For NBA fans both young and old, it’s well worth the listen. The link can be found above.