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Decades Before Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, Moses Malone Got the Ball Rolling as the First Preps-to-Pros Success

When the NBA salary cap was instituted in 1984, it represented a dramatic shift to the free market in professional basketball. Players could now choose which teams they wanted to play for, rather than being restricted to a particular team via their former school. The reaction of most of the players was to take full advantage of the new system: Kevin Ricketts, a walk-on from Long Beach State, the first player to score 1,000 points in the NBA for a team other than UCLA, was offered the chance to sign with the Lakers after his junior season in 1983. Before Ricketts, the big salaries in the NBA were reserved for those players who had been drafted. But Ricketts was a free agent and had the opportunity to make as much money as

The NBA is now a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, and every year hundreds of players are drafted, but there were a few who, for one reason or another, never made it. One of these players is Moses Malone, who was a star at Pittsburgh’s Hillman High School, and went on to play for three D-I colleges, and then a few years with the Cincinnati Royals, before being picked up by the Houston Rockets. But he really didn’t start playing at an NBA level until he was traded to the 76ers in 1983. It was then when he became the team’s leading scorer, averaging double figures for the next nine years, with a peak of 21.1 ppg in 1986-1987. He would also win

Kevin Garnett was the first high-school player chosen in 20 years when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him fifth overall in the 1995 NBA draft. Before the NBA altered the age restriction for the 2006 draft, Garnett was followed by a total of 38 additional players. The outcomes were a little hit-or-miss. Moses Malone, though, opened the path for high students to go straight to the professionals and succeed before any of the NBA’s selections.

Malone was never selected by an NBA club. Well, one did, but the New Orleans Jazz lost Malone’s rights when the NBA-ABA merger made him vulnerable to the dispersal draft of ABA players.

Moses Malone was one of the most desired picks in the ABA Dispersal Draft in August 1976, with two years of professional experience and star potential at the age of 21.

Until he wasn’t, Moses Malone was just like any other high school prospect.

Moses Malone was absolutely dominating as a senior at Petersburg High School in Virginia. According to Terry Pluto’s fictional history of the American Basketball Association, Loose Balls, he had originally committed to Clemson before changing his mind and going to Maryland. The ABA’s Utah Stars, on the other hand, began scouting Malone, and Larry Creger is a well-known author., a Stars assistant coach, began the chase.

Creger made a comment about the poverty level in Malone’s area. Mary Malone’s health made matters worse. Moses’ mother was no longer supposed to work due to ulcers.

“It was clear that they were bankrupt. There was no paint in the home. There was no grass where the lawn should have been. That was the case across the whole area, which was very impoverished.

“The home had a nice interior. I had a sneaking suspicion that some of the universities had given them furnishings. They had a new couch, new carpets, and a beautiful color television set. They also seemed to be the only house in the neighborhood with a window air conditioner. Maybe Mary Malone was compensated for it, but I find that difficult to believe.”

Larry Creger

The Malones’ strong conviction that Moses had to go to college was something Creger never heard from them. As a result, one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history (as well as one of the hardest teammates) was able to get an early start.

Malone agrees to a four-year deal for a lot of money (at the time)

Moses Malone as a rookie with the Utah Stars During an American Basketball Association (ABA) game at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, in 1975, center Moses Malone (22) of the Utah Stars shoots against center Billy Paultz (5) of the New York Nets. | Gojkovich, George /Photo by Getty Images

Moses Malone was signed out of high school by the Utah Stars, drawing the wrath of the collegiate basketball establishment. Colleges banned ABA scouts from their campuses, and the league as a whole suffered the consequence. Malone has a four-year deal for $565,000. For a player who had never played beyond high school, it was a significant investment.

However, as a 19-year-old rookie, Malone averaged 18.8 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. Malone never played for Utah again after breaking his foot in his second season. The Stars folded while he was recovering, and he was picked up by the Spirits of St. Louis in the dispersal draft. As part of the NBA merger, St. Louis was one of the teams that was paid to fold.

In his first season with the Stars, Nissalke, Tom coached him and was blown away by his rebounding abilities.

“Other than a deadly ability to grab the ball off the boards, Moses Malone had almost no offensive skills as a young man. He was lightning-fast and always seemed to anticipate where a bounce would land. In his first season, I witnessed a playoff game in which he had 38 rebounds, 23 of which came on the offensive glass.”

Tom Nissalke

Soon after, Nissalke, who went on to coach the Houston Rockets, was reunited with Moses Malone.

Moses Malone is also causing a stir in the NBA.

Moses Malone was never a member of the Trail Blazers, who chose him in the dispersal draft and traded him to the Buffalo Braves. Malone was retained by the Buffalo Sabres for two games before being traded to the Houston Rockets.

Malone’s offensive rebounding ability was always there, even as he developed a more low-post approach as he grew older. Malone finished with 6,731 offensive rebounds in 19 NBA seasons, more than any other player in league history (the statistic became official in 1973). His 16,212 total rebounds rank fifth all-time in NBA history, while his 27,409 points rank ninth.

Moses Malone was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, enshrined in 2001, but died in September 2015 at the age of 60 after a heart attack. Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Tracy McGrady are the other three prep-to-pro players in the Hall of Fame. Malone, on the other hand, was the one who helped pave the way for the rest of them.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

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