The conversation of the best center in NBA history is largely dominated by names like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Shaquille O’neal. But there is a fifth name that should be included in this conversation, and it is Moses Malone. In fact, he just might be one of the most underrated basketball players of all time.
Moses Malone was a standout at Petersburg high school in Virginia and went undefeated in his final two years. He eventually planned to go to college and play at Maryland, however, he was selected in the 1974 ABA draft and thus, turned pro right from high school.
He began his pro basketball career with the ABA’s Utah Stars and was an all-star in his rookie year. After the Stars folded the following year, he was sold to the Spirits of St. Louis and averaged a double double in his two seasons with the team. But after the 1975-76 season, the ABA and NBA merged and (because his team wasn’t chosen to join the NBA, he was included in the pool of players in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft.
His first little while in the NBA was tumultuous and actually appeared on three teams before he even played three games. He was drafted by Portland, but they traded him before he played a game to the Buffalo Braves, where he only played two games before he was dealt to the Houston Rockets.
He found a home in Houston and instantly became a great player but a phenomenal rebounder as he averaged over 13 a game and set the record for the most offensive rebounds in a season. Over the next few years, he continued to be a beast on the boards, but greatly improved his offensive play and scoring. And by 1978-79 (after he gained 15 lbs in the offseason), Malone became one of the premier centers in the league as he averaged almost 25 points a game and just shy of 18 rebounds per game, which won him his first NBA MVP award.
After all this success, he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers as a free agent and even FURTHER elevated his game. While his points tapered off a little, his leadership qualities evolved and he became the team’s unquestioned leader. In fact, he won two straight MVPs in Philly in 1982 and 1983, and even won a title with the team in 1983. After Philadelphia he went on to play for a number of other teams as his career declined, but his hay day was among the best ever.
For his career, which spanned nearly 20 years in the NBA, he had some insane per game averages. Despite having 5 pretty bad (by his standards) seasons to end his career, he still averaged 20.6 PPG and 12.2 RPG throughout his NBA career. Match those up with his other accomplishments such as 3 MVPs, 12 time all-star and 8 time All NBA team member, and you have a resume that deserves to be in the conversation among the best centers of all time.