After an intense hike in the mountains around Heber City, Utah, Karl Malone stopped into one of his local businesses and received some interesting news.
Someone working there told “The Mailman” that Salt Lake City would host NBA All-Star Weekend in 2023. The scoop beat the official announcement last Wednesday by a few hours.
His first reaction?
“It’s about damn time,” Malone told ESPN.
These days, Malone, 56, likes to keep a low profile while running a plethora of businesses in Ruston, Louisiana, and throughout Utah. However, three decades ago, the Utah Jazz legend shared the All-Star stage with his partner in crime John Stockton as co-MVPs of the game in what was then identified at the Delta Center back in 1993, now Vivint Smart Home Arena.
He sees this new game as an opportunity to clear up many misconceptions about the state.
“Look, we’re gonna see the same host of characters that go to every All-Star Game, and they’re gonna put all the celebrities on the front row which is bulls— by the way, but the thing about it is to be able to be at home and showing people our city and not the stereotype of, ‘Aw, it’s Utah. Oh, it’s the Mormons,’ but ‘Hey, it’s Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, and just a whole smorgasbord of religions, races and ethnicities’ but it’s got that rep,” Malone said. “Everybody is quick to say, ‘Oh, I don’t know about Utah, because you can’t find alcohol,’ but first of all it’s a state liquor store on every corner and then on the flip side of it, hell, bring your own.
“It’s just that stereotype but it’s amazing and I just smile and I couldn’t help but say, ‘It’s about damn time that it came back,'” he added. “So, even though I’m not involved in it at this point, I’m just so happy.”
Malone still cheers for the Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, and says he’s a diehard fan of rising star Donovan Mitchell. He’s honored by the Jazz’s Purple Mountain Classic jerseys this season and Mitchell’s “Mailman” edition of his Adidas D.O.N. Issue 1 signature sneakers.
“When you’re young, you’re going from zero to 100, but now he’s actually letting the game come to him and that’s what happens,” Malone said of Mitchell. “After three or four years, the game starts slowing down for you and that’s what he’s starting to do. I love watching him.
“I love the team and everybody just relax, Mike Conley is gonna come around,” he added. “This is a new situation, everybody just need to relax and take a chill because he’s gonna be just fine and once he starts clicking. They’re gonna be something special.
“That’s my prediction and I could be wrong. If I’m wrong, I’ll tell you that I’m wrong but I just love the whole makeup of the team. To me, we have the talent, but now the coaches have to put them in a position to succeed, and that’s just my take because you’ve got the talent. You’ve got it all but now the game is starting to slow down for Donovan and it’s so cool to watch and he just has fun. I love watching him. I love watching the whole team.”
With that being said, Malone says the Jazz haven’t contacted him about committing to any of the All-Star festivities — although the front office says it will when the time is right.
“I’m not gonna lie, it does bother me,” Malone said. “Look, hurting feelings, that seems like a wimp so I’m not gonna say that but it does piss me off that it’s like they spent their time getting rid of legacies. Now, in their own way, they’re trying to bring it back to make it seem like they didn’t do it in the first place. I’m not bitter now, but yeah, it pisses you off.”
Despite their low-key profile, a source told ESPN that the Jazz organization would love to have both Stockton and Malone as involved as they can be, and want to be, as the organization begins crafting specific programs and opportunities. Malone helped guide the Jazz to the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals and then had a brief role during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, so it would mean a lot to him to help with another monumental moment for the area.
“I don’t want them to feel like they’re supposed to or they’re obligated … no, no, not at all,” Malone said. “They’re not obligated to do nothing for Karl Malone and Karl Malone is not obligated to do nothing for them, but our history we have, it would be refreshing, but life goes on and it’s gonna be just fine. Look, I’m not whining.
“When it happens generically and nobody feels obligated, that’s when it feels special.
“I love and respect [Jazz owner] Gail Miller so much that if she called and told me she needs my help and she don’t have to, but if she called and said that, I would drop everything I do. That’s the respect I have for her and the Miller family.”