As Tom Ziller so aptly pointed out recently in his 90’s decade piece
Michael Jordan was the best player of the 1990s by a truly massive margin. He’s the greatest player in NBA history by a smaller, but still substantial, margin. No one ever approached him as a rival and came out ahead for more than a fleeting moment or two
That is definitely not in dispute. Where Tom has got it wrong though, in my opinion, is in his evaluation of whom the second best player of the decade is. Ziller’s man was Scottie Pippen. What? I love me some Bulls era 33, you wont find a bigger Scottie fan than me, but I’m also a realist and to have Scottie ranked so highly in a decade of seemingly endless Hall of Famers, feels wrong, it feels flat out wrong.
Tom, we all love and appreciate your tireless efforts for SBNation but dude, c’mon. The 2nd-best player of the 90’s is unquestionably Karl Malone. The Mailman just kept delivering, night after night, city after city, game after game and he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Why does no-one respect Karl?
Actually, Tom did highlight why Karl was the second best player in his own analysis. When using Tom’s own Karl Malone write up and replacing Charles Barkley’s name with Scottie Pippen’s, it highlights several deficiancies in Tom’s claim that Scottie is the 2nd-best (the same way he used it too highlight Charles’):
Malone nearly made our All-’80s team; there’s no question he belongs high on the All-’90s squad. When you look at the honours each earned and the numbers. The Mailman won two MVPs in the decade to Pippens’s NONE. He was First-Team All-NBA all 10 years of the ’90s. Pippen nabbed only 3 1st-Team honours. In addition to his two MVPs, Malone had five top-5 MVP finishes in the decade. Scottie Pippen had two top-5 finishes in 94 and 96 and ZERO MVP’s. Scottie Pippen finished his career ranked No. 55 on the all-time NBA/ABA scoring list. Malone is, of course, No. 2
When you add in the fact that the Mailman missed a total of 3 games for the whole freaking decade (dude was seriously incredible) while Scottie had migraines just thinking about the Knicks and Pistons during the early part of the decade… who is leading the count so far?
The fact remains, that for the decade of the 90’s, Karl Malone played in more games, had more 1st team All-NBA selections, more All-Star games, scored more points, had more rebounds, won more MVP’s and probably had more children.
The Utah Jazz of the 90’s were the template the Spurs of today used. You could pencil in at least 50 wins every year and a trip to the playoffs. You could pencil in that Karl would play 82 games and score between 25-28 points and grab between 9 and 11 rebounds. Every game, every year.
Karl Malone was the immovable object, a Utah Jazz pillar of strength, a player that you knew would be there in 99% of the games in the 90’s (no one else comes close to matching that) He would always deliver. There is no doubt in my mind Karl Malone was EASILY the 2nd best player of the 90’s and I know I’m not alone in that thinking.