Doug Robinson: A missing Malone — and no real explanation

Doug Robinson: A missing Malone — and no real explanation

SALT LAKE CITY — Before we move on from the Jazz family reunion, will someone explain what just happened?

They held a 20-year reunion of the 1997 NBA Finals team at halftime of Wednesday’s Jazz-Knicks game — and Karl Malone didn’t show up.

He sent a video instead.

Would the “Seinfeld” cast hold a reunion without Jerry, even if George and Kramer could be there? Would the Beach Boys reunite without Brian Wilson? Would the 49ers’ Super Bowl team get together again, sans Joe Montana?

Speculation ran wild about Malone’s absence. It was so difficult to believe that he would really miss the event that many — including John Stockton — expected Malone to arrive at the last moment, unannounced, Favre-like.

Only two players have statues outside the team arena and have roads named after them — Malone and Stockton. If the pub-shy Stockton could be there, if his ailing former coach could be there, if his aging former team president could be there, well …

Malone probably had a perfectly reasonable explanation for his absence, but we’ll never know. His wife tweeted that he had a previous engagement and couldn’t make it. That was that. There were enough rumors about his previous engagement to fill a tabloid.

We’ll give Malone the benefit of the doubt, as always. Retired multi-million dollar unemployed athletes have a lot on their plates (which would account for some of the weight gains). Maybe he had to change the oil in the big rig or move cattle off the North 40. Maybe he was building homes for the poor. Wonderful. But wouldn’t you think at this point that Malone might have the courtesy to explain to the fans — the people who gave him a life of ease — why he wasn’t there?

And if you are the Jazz front office, why not find a date that will accommodate Malone? They didn’t make this thing up at the last moment. It’s been in the works for months. When Deseret News columnist Lee Benson interviewed outgoing team president Randy Rigby last fall, Rigby discussed the reunion and how important it was to keep the “family” together. He mentioned that he had talked to Malone specifically. That was four months ago.

The Jazz catered to Malone’s every whim when he was a player — he wants another contract to replace the one he just signed? Give it to him. He wants a bowl of fruit in his hotel room? Done. The fruit bowl is too small? Get him a bigger one — so why not cater to him now?

Like Malone, the Jazz organization did not offer a real explanation for Malone’s absence.

Something doesn’t add up here.

They have airports where Malone lives, right? He couldn’t charter a flight and fly in for a few hours?

The only other notable absentees that night were Larry Miller and Hot Rod Hundley, and they have pretty good excuses.

Malone, who always did have a flair for drama and controversy, was given a pass, as usual. Sometimes it was just difficult to understand the things he did and said. He could launch public tirades against his great benefactor and father figure, the late owner Larry Miller; he could throw fits or offer up the silent treatment; he could be moodier than a teenager; he could even abandon the Jazz for a year and join the dreaded Lakers, of all teams, in an 11th-hour attempt to win a championship. He could do all of that and more, but fans and media always took him back and all was forgotten.

If he had shown up at the last minute for Wednesday’s reunion, he would have been richly applauded again.

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On Wednesday night, he missed an event so moving and beautifully executed by the Jazz that even the ESPN announcers were gushing. Even a Lakers fan might have been moved to tears by this salute to a graying cast of characters who made such a gallant effort for a championship. No one would have guessed they finished second. It was a night of memories and warm feelings for fans, players and the Jazz organization.

It’s also likely the last time many of them will be able to attend such an event. It was a shame Malone missed it, for whatever the reason was.

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Published at Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:25:00 +0000