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Basketball just one of life’s ‘bumps in the road’ to NBA

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (BP)–Karl Malone says when he’s on the basketball court in a confrontation with an opposing player, he isn’t thinking “what would Jesus do.”
“Maybe I should be,” said the two-time National Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player. “But when I step on the court, I look at everyone like they’re my enemies. That’s the competitive spirit coming out.”
However, when the Utah Jazz power forward is off the court, he says he is a “pretty laid-back guy.”
The 6-foot 9-inch, 256-pound NBA veteran, who wears a size 16 shoe, spoke to a packed-with-youth family life center at First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, Okla., about his life and his commitment to God and to his family.
“Two things are sacred to me — my family and my religion,” said Malone. “I am never embarrassed by Jesus Christ. Without him I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. You don’t just all of a sudden grow up and get to where I am today.”
The 36-year-old Malone, who has played with the Jazz for 14 years, said it took a lot of hard work, dedication and belief.
He was reared, one of six children, in a single-parent home in Louisiana. As a Southern Baptist, he made a profession of faith at age 15.
“It seems like we went to church at least four or five times every Sunday,” he quipped. “If we were good, we got half a piece of chewing gum. If we were bad, Mom would pinch us and we’d eventually fall asleep.”
Malone said a crossroad in his life came when he was five years old.
“I was sitting in my kindergarten class looking out the window when I saw my mother coming,”recalled Malone. “She never came to school unless she wanted to see how we were doing or we’d done something bad, and she was there to whip our behinds.”
Malone said he knew he hadn’t done anything bad that day, but when his mother gathered his sisters and brothers in the car and headed toward home, he knew something was wrong. He said she told them that their father had committed suicide.
“That was a crossroad in my life,” Malone revealed. “I didn’t forgive my father until six years ago.”
He added when something bad happens, “you can either feel sorry for yourself, or do something about it.”
“If I could spend 10 minutes with my dad right now, and as a result all my earthly possessions would be taken away, I’d say OK,” noted Malone, who will make $14 million a year on a just-negotiated contract. “That’s how unimportant material things are.”
The first player in NBA history to be named to 11 All-NBA first teams, Malone admitted basketball is only a bump in his road of life.
“I wasn’t put on this Earth to play basketball, although I love to play and I love to compete. And it’s a great avenue for me to experience special moments when I can help people,” he said.
He told the youth he wanted to be a fighter pilot as he was growing up. But the problem was he kept growing up.
“When I was a senior in high school, I was 6 feet, 4 inches tall,” he said. “By the next year, I had grown to 6 feet, 8. I had passed the height limits for pilots.”
As Malone was “growing up,” he led Summerfield High School to three consecutive Louisiana state championships. While continuing his basketball prowess at Louisiana Tech, a sports writer dubbed him “The Mailman,” because he always delivers. That nickname has stuck with him through his pro career.
Malone told the young crowd they have an opportunity to make a difference.
“Think about doing something so big that it is even beyond your imagination,” he challenged. “Don’t sell yourself short. Think big. Make your mom and dad proud of you.”
Malone said with the help of God and his family, “I made it. I haven’t forgotten where I came from, but I know where I’m going.”

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  • Dana Williamson