Karl Mails it In
The basketball world won't quite be the same tomorrow when Karl Malone officially announces his retirement. Malone may leave the game without the championship he so desperately sought, and without the all-time scoring record he nearly broke, but the Mailman can take soleace in retiring as the greatest power forward of all-time. Malone redefined his position after years of perfecting the pick-and-roll with John Stockton, but when he came to LA, he redefined himself. LAist is still convinced that if Malone were healthy, the Lakers would have beaten Detroit for the title. With Kobe and Shaq squabbling all season, and Gary Payton looking dead, Malone handled the West's best power forwards defensively, while doing every little thing that the rest of the team seemed incapable of. Without Malone, the Lakers had no answer for Rasheed and Ben Wallace, and could not prevent the Pistons from running the floor.
It's funny that Malone became so loved by LA after being hated in Utah for so long as an arch rival. Some people thought he played dirty. Others made fun of his redneck demeanor (who can forget Jimmy Kimmel's impersonation of Malone on KROQ's "Kevin and Bean"?). But in reality, Malone was a consummate professional, whose extraordinary physical fitness regimen allowed him to be a top player in the league as he turned 40.
A championship with San Antonio this year might have tarnished Malone's legacy as much as enhancing it. Latching onto the coattails of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker in February would have made Malone look like a title scavenger when he really should be remembered for his character and class. It's unfortunate that a silly dispute involving Kobe's wife prevented Malone from playing for the Lakers this season, but with the Mailman finally showing his age, the time was probably right for him to retire.