Malone The Inspiration
Malone has long been something of an elder statesman in the sport of basketball, serving as an inspiration not only for the younger members of the Jazz but for players across the league. In the summer of 1997 former Denver Nuggets player Bill Hanzlik, who was head coach of the Nuggets for the 1997-98 season, bumped into Malone while he was working out in a Salt Lake City gym. Hanzlik, who had come to town with several of his rookie players to participate in a summer league, thought that it would be an excellent lesson for these young men to see how hard Malone worked, even on a Sunday morning in the off season. Hanzlik woke four players up and brought them back to the health club, where Malone was in the middle of leading a spinning class. After the class was over, Malone spent fifteen minutes talking to these rookies about the devotion and hard work that it takes to be a success in basketball and about how getting caught up in a glamorous lifestyle would only distract them from that work. "That one meeting was worth more than the whole ten days we spent in summer camp," Hanzlik recalled to Tom McEachin of Sport magazine.
"Everybody asks me now: How many more years do you think you can keep up with the young guys?" Malone was quoted as saying by McEachin in 1998. "I ain't seen a young guy catch me yet. Why … do I need to start catching up to them?" With this attitude and continued hard work, Malone looks set to continue leading the NBA and inspiring young players well past his fortieth birthday.