WASHINGTON: Moses Malone, an American basketball Hall of Famer and three-time NBA Most Valuable Player who played for nine professional teams in a 21-year career, died Sunday at age 60.
According to multiple reports, Malone died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack at a hotel in Norfolk, Virginia.
Nicknamed “Chairman of the Boards” for his rebounding skills and “Big Mo” for his 6-foot-10 (2.08m) frame, Malone led the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA title in his only championship campaign.
“We are stunned and deeply saddened by the passing of Hall of Famer Moses Malone, an NBA legend gone far too soon,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
“Known to his legions of fans as the ‘Chairman of the Boards,’ Moses competed with intensity every time he stepped on the court.”
Asked how the 76ers would do in the playoffs before they began, Malone replied, “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’,” — four, four, four — for the 12 playoff wins over three series it then took to capture the NBA crown.
The Sixers went 12-1 in the playoffs, losing only once, to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals, and Malone was named NBA Finals MVP. The inscription “Fo’, Fi’, Fo,'” — for the four, five and four games it actually took to claim the title — was put on team championship rings.
“It is difficult to express what his contributions to this organization — both as a friend and player — have meant to us, the city of Philadelphia and his faithful fans,” 76ers chief executive Scott O’Neil said.
“Moses holds a special place in our hearts and will forever be remembered as a genuine icon and pillar of the most storied era in the history of Philadelphia 76ers basketball.”
Malone scored 29,580 points and grabbed 17,834 rebounds during his pro career, averaging 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds a game. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.
In 1974, Malone graduated from Petersburg (Virginia) High School and became one of the first prep stars to leap directly into the pro ranks, signing with the Utah Stars of the now-defunct NBA rival, the American Basketball Association.
He also played for the Spirits of St. Louis before the league merged with the NBA. He played briefly for Buffalo before beginning a six-year run with the Houston Rockets, then joined the 76ers to win a title in his first of four years there. He came back for one more Sixers season late in his career and also played for Washington, Atlanta, Milwaukee and San Antonio before retiring in 1995.
The six-time NBA rebounding champion and 12-time NBA All-Star selection had his jersey number, 24, retired by the Rockets.
“With three MVPs and an NBA championship, he was among the most dominant centers ever to play the game and one of the best players in the history of the NBA and the ABA,” Silver said.
“Even more than his prodigious talent, we will miss his friendship, his generosity, his exuberant personality, and the extraordinary work ethic he brought to the game throughout his 21-year pro career.”
Several other NBA stars tweeted their respects to Malone and his family.
“Rip to the great Moses Malone,” said Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
“Another one of the game’s legends gone too soon,” tweeted former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen. “A champion and one of the elite players of his time. RIP Moses Malone.”
Retired 76ers star Allen Iverson said: “My condolences to the family and friends of Moses Malone. You will truly be missed. Rest in peace Big Mo!!!”