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Remembering NBA Legend Moses Malone

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Basketball Hall of Famer Moses Malone died earlier today. He was 60 years old. Malone play 21 seasons of professional basketball, and the three-time MVP had the most career offensive rebounds in NBA history, earning him the title Chairman of the Boards. NPR's Brakkton Booker has this remembrance.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: If you never got the chance to see Moses Malone dominate the hardwood, here's all you need to know about his style of play.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1983 NBA FINALS)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Inside to Malone.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: You can see his strength and his timing too. And that was quickest...

BOOKER: That was from the 1983 NBA Finals. Malone's Philadelphia 76ers swept the Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games. Malone stood 6-feet-10 inches tall. That combination of strength, timing and quickness made college and professional teams clamor for his services. John Lucas II is a former player and coach in the NBA. He says he and Malone knew each other for more than 40 years. They met when Lucas tried to convince Malone to play with him in college.

JOHN LUCAS II: I recruited him for the University of Maryland. He went to school for one day, and then he went to the pros.

BOOKER: Malone was picked up by the Utah Stars of the old ABA league. He was just 19 years old and the first player to jump from high school to the pros. Lucas and Malone did eventually play together for six seasons with the Houston Rockets. Lucas says he used to throw the alley-oop to Malone to perfection in their first year. Then, Malone got creative.

LUCAS: His second year, what he would do is get it, hit it off the glass, rebound and then put it back.

BOOKER: Lucas laughs at the fact that Malone was padding his stats.

LUCAS: That way it was a shot attempt, an offensive rebound and a score.

BOOKER: But Malone is perhaps best remembered for his role in helping a really good 76ers franchise, led by Dr. J., Julius Irving, get over the hump and bring a championship back to Philadelphia. Here is Moses Malone from an NPR report speaking from the 76ers' locker room after sweeping the Magic Johnson-led Lakers four games to none.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MOSES MALONE: We did this for the fans of Philadelphia, the coach, the general manager. And now, we did it for the players, especially for Dr. J., you know, Doc. It's great for Doc, and it's great for the whole team.

BOOKER: Malone took home finals MVP honors.

DAWN STALEY: You know, he's forever indebted to all the hearts of all Philadelphians.

BOOKER: That is Dawn Staley. She's a Philadelphia native and a basketball Hall of Famer in her own right. She's now the women's head basketball coach at the University of South Carolina. Staley tweeted out perhaps the last photo taken of Moses Malone - the two of them hugging at an airport Saturday. They had both been attending the ceremony for the 2015 Hall of Fame class. Staley says she's still in disbelief.

STALEY: He left a lasting memory on me because it was early in the morning. He made me smile, he made me laugh, and he was himself.

BOOKER: No official cause of death for Malone has been released. Moses Malone was 60 years old. Brakkton Booker, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.