If you were lucky enough to watch Moses Malone play on a regular basis, there was nothing about it that looked easy. He wasn’t what anyone would label graceful and because he had relatively small hands for a 6-foot-10 guy, Moses always seemed to be clinging to the ball with extra might.
Add in the fact that Moses was covered with a drenching sweat seconds after the opening tip and it added to the image of a guy busting it out there. He was no force of nature like many NBA superstars we have seen, but he brought a rare championship to Philadelphia and became one of the NBA’s all-time 50 greatest players through force of will.
More than anything, Moses was a rebounder. He’d park himself on the low block and run a tip drill when a ball came off the rim. If the ball didn’t go in after one of his tips, he’d get it again… and again until the play was finished. Considering he broke in with the Utah Stars straight out of Petersburg, Va. high school in 1974 and didn’t retire until 1995 just illustrates the point.
Maybe the best explanation how Moses acquired his style for no-fluff and tenacious basketball comes from the fact that as a high school kid he often was allowed to play pickup games with the inmates at the nearby prison. If that doesn’t teach a guy how to be tough…
Kevin Love, the big man for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has a knack for rebounding just like Moses. He learned his craft a little differently, though. The son of NBA/ABA player, Stan Love, and nephew of Beach Boys singer, Mike Love, the younger Love didn’t hone his game playing against prisoners. Instead, he went to UCLA for one season and spent last summer with Team USA in the World Championships. In Moses’ day, only college players could be on international teams and since he grew up in poverty in a single-parent home, the goal was to get some money.
Nevertheless, with a league-leading 15.5 rebounds per game to go with nearly 21 points per game, Love’s numbers mirror some of those posted by Moses during his career with the 76ers. Of course those pertain only to the regular season because Love hasn’t been to the playoffs yet. That means he hasn’t made any boasts like Moses in predicting three straight sweeps like he did with “fo’, fo’, fo’,” during the Sixers’ run in 1983.
However, like Moses in 1978-79, Love is piling up some ridiculous feats. Back then for the Houston Rockets, Moses notched at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in 50 straight games to set the (modern day) all-time record for such a thing. Wilt Chamberlain registered 227 straight double-doubles during the NBA's statistical dark ages. That was back when a guy like Wilt could average 50.4 points per game (1962) and lead the league in assists another season (1968). Better yet, Wilt is the only player in NBA history to get a double triple-double when he got 24 points, 26 rebounds and 21 assists in a game for the Sixers in the 1968 season,
In other words, we're counting Moses' 50 straight double-doubles as the modern day record.
So, during the '78-'79 season, Moses got nearly 25 points and 18 rebounds per game during the regular season and then 24.5 points and 20 rebounds during the playoffs to win his first of three MVP awards.
Think about 50 straight double-doubles for a second… that means no nights off, no mailing it in and no resting on a back-to-back or even a stretch where the Rockets spent a weekend with games in Phoenix, Portland and Seattle on three straight nights. Better yet, Moses pulled off the feat despite playing on the same team as noted ball hogs Rick Barry and Calvin Murphy.
Love got his 49th straight double-double in the 111-100 loss in Philadelphia on Friday night, finishing the game with 21 points and 23 boards on the heels of a 20-20 effort two nights prior. He will attempt to tie Moses’ record on Saturday in Washington against one of his dad’s old teams and where the Hall-of-Famer he gets his middle name from, Wesley Unseld.
“He reminds me a bit of Charles Oakley, a guy I coached, in that he’s not a great leaper, but he has incredible hands and a great feel for where the ball is coming off the rim. There’s a knack for offensive rebounding and knowing where the ball is going to come off and he goes out and gets it. He rebounds his own area and goes out and gets the ball.”
Certainly Love’s streak is impressive and the uncanny consistency is certainly can be labeled as “old school” as his game. But considering that Love is the only player for Minnesota to appear in every game, he is the focus of the entire game plan. Love will get his points, but also will get his rebounds because there isn’t anyone else there. Of course, he will face more trick defenses and double teams than most players, but is the game as tough now as it was when Moses was getting double-doubles?
Surely it’s tough to compare eras and players born generations apart, but 50 straight double-doubles for Moses has to marked up for inflation… right?
Regardless, Elton Brand will have his hands full with Love tonight even though he was held to 16 and 13 last month when the Sixers went to Minnesota.
“A lot of people talk about his rebounding, but he’s a real good shooter,” said Brand, acknowledging Love’s 42.3 shooting percentage beyond the arc. “He can shoot, he’s a good passer and he’s a good all-around player.”
Love, a center, has made 80 three-pointers this season. Moses never did that.
“The thing that is shocking to me is how he shoots the three ball,” Collins said. “He steps out there and has a great feel for the game, his passing is terrific, and he is having a great, great season.”
Moreover, thanks to Love we’re talking about Moses Malone again and thinking about how much fun it was to watch him play.