Q+A: Karl Malone

Karl Malone doesn’t make too many public appearances—aside from the occasional commercial, his face isn’t plastered all over television and radio the way some NBA legends’ are. But he did reach out to us to raise awareness for a health campaign promoting a program for the home delivery of prescription medicine for high blood pressure, a subject he values deeply after losing his mother to hypertension in 2003. Wednesday morning, we spoke with The Mailman about the Karl Malone Delivers For You campaign, along with plenty of talk about today’s NBA players.

SLAM: We don’t see you TNT or ESPN on a nightly basis giving basketball analysis, but have you been following this year’s NBA season closely?

Karl Malone: I’ve been following a little bit. The reason I’m not on those shows is they never reach out and ask me to be on those shows. Maybe they don’t want me to tell them what I really think about the game and all that, which is not bad, but it ain’t my doing.

SLAM: Would you have an interest in regularly appearing on TV?

KM: Yeah, if it’s set up the right way. If we can do it between hunting and fishing season and set it up the right way, I probably could pull that off. If you can go mobile with the satellite truck and I can get out long enough from fishing and hunting and driving heavy equipment, I might do that, yeah.

SLAM: Who have you enjoyed watching this season?

KM: Well, I love the old-school players, so San Antonio, I really like them. The Portland Trail Blazers are young—I like to see the way they’re playing. Of course Golden State. I don’t sit down and say, I’m gonna watch “this guy,” but some of my favorites would be Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, LeBron James and Steph Curry, because I played with his dad. But here’s what I like: I just like good basketball and I like guys who play hard. We take rest now—we [are supposed to] work around the clock. Our servicemen and women and first responders, hell, they can’t take a break. They can’t take rest. What is rest? I’m paying you $20 million and you’re taking a rest? I don’t understand that. Enlighten me on that. Here’s the thing about it: I took pride in playing. When a family of four comes to see a person play and they show up and he’s resting, I don’t understand it. Now look, San Antonio and Coach Pop, they’re grandfathered in. They can rest all they want to. I love them. But beyond that, the young guys coming in that haven’t done anything—I don’t like that kind of basketball. I like real basketball. There’s some good teams out there, some good players out there, and you just want them to play every night. That’s what I miss most.

SLAM: A lot of this generation of players grew up watching you—do you see your game in any of today’s NBA?

KM: Well, better. Like as far as power, LeBron. But I didn’t jump like Blake Griffin. I didn’t shoot like Kevin Durant. But I see some guys doing it. I just like guys who play hard. I want to pick up my program and everybody that I came to see play, I want to show up anywhere—at home or on the road—and I want to see them play. I don’t want, “Oh, I’m gonna take this game off.” And then, all the geniuses of the world telling guys they shouldn’t do [certain things on the court], and they’ve got the analytics of basketball, which I don’t even know what the heck that means, but they’ve got that going. It’s like, suit up, get in the weight room, get bigger and go play. We’ve got more injuries now—shoulders, groins, all that kinda stuff. Please. Just go play. What if our soldiers or our first responders were like, “Oh, I’m sorry! My shoulder! My back’s sore! My groin hurts!” Come on, really? It’s called playing basketball—that’s all we wanna see you do.

SLAM: It’s funny you mentioned analytics, because last night that came to the forefront last night when

KM: Can I ask you a question?

SLAM: Sure.

KM: Enlighten me on analytics. I’m a country bumpkin. Please tell me what that means, pertaining to my sport. Enlighten me and let me give you my response.

SLAM: It’s just a deeper way of looking at statistics, valuing numbers that aren’t necessarily in box scores. They’re supposed to encourage efficiency and smarter basketball, so like, advanced stats would generally value three-pointers and shots around the basket over long two-pointers.

KM: Can I tell you something? When you find the guy, whoever invented that word, if he wants to debate me, please let me know. I want to talk to him about the analytics. You cannot tell me—you know what? My memory’s coming back to me a little bit. Someone told, I forget which player it was, that you don’t need a mid-range game. I want to say somebody said that to Kevin Durant. Are you kidding me? I will kill you with a mid-range game. That’s the analytics? That’s what they’re talking about? How many games are they playing? And how many games are they winning? When you find that person [who invented the term “analytics”], please get in touch with me so I can debate him. Just go play and get rid of all that.

SLAM: Today’s power forwards and centers play way differently than they did in the ’90s, but DeMarcus Cousins seems like a player today who would’ve fit in with you guys back then. He’s been in the news recently for reportedly not wanting to play for Coach George Karl [who the Kings hired minutes after this interview ended—Ed.]. Have you watched him play at all?

KM: I can actually say I don’t know DeMarcus Cousins really well, but I will say this: You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes you learn a lot more by just being quiet. You get a Hall of Fame coach, he might teach you something. And how about this: Don’t make no judgments until you meet the coach and have issues with it. Or how about this, young fella: Just play. When you’ve done something in the League, in about 10 years, maybe 12 or 14, then you get your comments. Right now, I don’t know that fella personally and unfortunately you do hear some negative things, but I do know he’s a hell of a talent. So hopefully one day he’ll just play the game and let other people see how great he is. But you’re talking to a Hall of Famer—respect your elders, young fella. That’s what I’d say to DeMarcus Cousins.

SLAM: You really should be doing more TV spots.

KM: Well, I’ll tell you what. If you get a satellite truck out there between hunting and fishing season, I might take my camouflage paint off my face—‘cause you know, you shine in the sunlight—and we’ll do a show from the woods. Absolutely.

SLAM: How much of the year are you tied up with hunting and fishing?

KM: Look, it’s somewhere to hunt or fish everyday, son. The fish and the animals don’t take a break, we do.

SLAM: Tell me a little about the Karl Malone Delivers For You campaign you’re involved in.

KM: Well, I got involved in it because I lost my mom to a heart attack. She had high blood pressure—I guess the sexy word is “hypertension,” but it’s high blood pressure. My mom understood that. So I had an opportunity to partner with AstraZeneca to do a campaign, because, number one, it’s Black History Month, and it’s American Heart Month. African Americans are more prone to diabetes and high blood pressure, so we formed a partnership. If you go to karldeliversforyou.com, you’ll see my story—there’s recipes and family activities, but also a very private way for you to get your blood pressure medicine delivered right to your door. If my mom had the opportunity to use this, she would’ve loved it, because my mom was a very discrete lady and a very private person. The convenience of it in your home is just awesome.

SLAM: And as someone who doesn’t do a ton of public appearances, it seems like if you’re involved in something like this, it must have a special meaning for you.

KM: Yeah, I lost my mom as well as my grandmother to a heart attack. So my thing is, I’ve played for a long time and I’m known as the Mailman and all of that, but if I can help or assist one person to go to karldeliversforyou.com, that one person could’ve been my mom, or that person could be your mom. But you have to go to the website to look at it. And how do you know if you’re a candidate? You have to have a conversation with your doctor. I’m not a doctor—I’m the Mailman. But you’ve gotta be honest. My mom would talk to us about how she felt all the time, but when she got in front of a doctor she wasn’t honest with him. People don’t realize—there aren’t warning signs, where you can say, OK, this is going on. I’ve got high blood pressure—well, what is that? You’ve got to talk to a doctor.

Adam Figman is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @afigman