3. Moses Malone

Seasons: 5 (two stints – 4 years between 1982-86 and 1993-1994)

Stats: 21.0 PTS, 11.0 REB, 1.3 BLK

Accolades: 4-time all-star with Sixers, 1982-83 NBA MVP, 1982-83 Finals MVP with Champion 76ers, 2-time All-NBA 1st team (1-time 2nd team), 1982-83 NBA All-Defensive 1st team (and numerous other awards as a part of other organizations)

Alright, so I’m going to make biblical allusions for no reason other than Moses’ name. Yeah, it’s terrible. No, that’s not stopping me from doing it.

Moses will always be known for his prophesying. His “Fo, fo, fo” declaration became famous, since it was one bravado-inspired sports prediction that actually came close to fruition. While it ultimately didn’t come true (it took five games to win the Eastern Conference Finals) it was as good as one. The Sixers won a title, which is all that counts.

Moses may or may not have been God-fearing, but he certainly inspired the fear of God in his opponents. He lead the league in rebounding 3 times in his first 4 seasons as a Sixer. He averaged nearly 24 points over those seasons. He was a force. He couldn’t be stopped.

The key to Moses was that his game was very basic but very effective. He relied on power post moves and offensive put-backs for the majority of his points. He led the league in total offensive rebounds a  whopping 8 times – he got the basketball near the rim often, which resulted in easy shots (he didn’t have much of a game other than that) or trips to the free throw line. And while put-backs were nice, Moses made a living at the free throw line. He averaged more than 10 free throw attempts per game in each of his 4 meaningful years with the Sixers, converting on 78% of them. Think about that for a second – imagine if Dwight Howard or Shaquille O’Neal shot free throws above the league average. While Moses didn’t have the size or shot-blocking ability of those two, he could control the glass like they could in their primes. Except he made the opponents pay every time for their sins.

And yet, he may be one of the most unremembered stars of all time. 3 MVPs and a Finals MVP for his career. He was a 12-time NBA all-star (and one-time ABA all-star to boot). He averaged 22-14 for his playoff career with a title. Yet many NBA fans couldn’t grasp the awesomeness of Moses – can you tell me how many players won at least as many MVP awards as him? Yes, I know these things aren’t full-proof: for example, two-time MVP Steve Nash, who’s great but not better than, say Kevin Garnett or Shaq in his prime, who have won only one MVP each, or many other players who haven’t won any.

But anyway, the answer to my previous question?

  • Kareem, with 6
  • Michael Jordan, with 5
  • Bill Russell, with 5
  • Wilt, with 4
  • Larry Bird, with 3
  • Magic Johnson, with 3
And that’s it. Moses has as many MVPs as Magic and Larry, and only less than 4 of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

Meanwhile, I have to give some justification to having him only third on the list. First off, the top 2 are obvious right now, though the order is not. Moses would have had to do a ton to overcome either – he only played 4 seasons, and although all were excellent it does fall short of 10 or more great years with the same or similar numbers and success. Moses also did have Dr. J with him – while Moses put the team over the top, the team had a ton of talent before he came and after he left. I don’t think that he should be number one.

But then again, maybe I, like most others, am just overlooking this force of biblical proportions. For his huge contributions in such a short period of time, Moses grabs the third spot. And I don’t think that’s a slight.

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