Mr. Cheap Shot

During the Mavericks' December 4 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Steve Nash became the latest victim to be taken down by one of Karl Malone's infamous "inadvertent" elbows. Here's the play: Early in the third quarter, Nash takes it to the hole, misses. Malone rebounds, and Nash swats at the ball to no avail. Should've been over then, right? Not on Malone's watch. Instead, he swung his elbow at Nash's head, knocking him to the floor and out of the game for most of the quarter while Nash received a pair of stitches.

Nash is listed at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, and that's being generous. Malone checks in at 6-foot-9, 259, and that's being conservative. Real tough, Karl.

"He wasn't going to get the rebound, so why don't you go back to the other end of the floor?" Malone said after the game. "I'm entitled to turn...When I get the rebound, you're not going to come get it. So I call it a dead play, because why are you still hanging around?"

Mark Cuban petitioned the NBA to suspend Malone for three games. Upon reviewing the play, league Vice President Stu Jackson decided to take Malone out of action for one game. Should've been over then, right? Not on Cuban's watch. Earlier this week, we received an e-mail from Cubes detailing similar cheap shots Malone has delivered during his 19-year career.

Usually when Cuban pulls something like this--milking an incident for every remaining atom of publicity--we find it a bit distasteful. Kind of like the way he hovers on the fringe of every time-out huddle during Mavs home games. But this time he's struck the appropriate nerve. And after a bit of investigating, we learned that his list isn't even complete. There's still more blood to squeeze out of this sugar cube.

Oh, sure, Cuban's list has the usual suspects: the elbow Malone--then playing college ball at Louisiana Tech--threw at Rice University freshman Dave Ramer, shattering his face. (Ramer never played again.) Another elbow that resulted in Isiah Thomas receiving 40 stitches. Yet another elbow, this one against Joe Kleine, requiring plastic surgery to remedy. And, holy crap, another flying elbow, one that knocked David Robinson unconscious. Robinson, swear to God, was actually called for a foul on the play. It's like robbing a bank and then having one of the tellers ask if you need help carrying all that cash.

But we found a Web page that does Cuban one better, subtly titled "Karl Malone is a Menace." (We'd print the link, but the address is about 30 words long. You can look it up.) The site lists at least half a dozen more incidents, many of them focusing on Malone's lesser-known tactic: kicking people in the junk. On "accident," of course. Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Horry and Steve Francis all caught a size-15 high-top to their man parts. Donyell Marshall and Shawn Bradley, among others, were slightly more fortunate; Malone's kicks landed higher. Sure, Marshall busted a rib, but he still has an outside shot of fathering children.

In short, Malone is the devil. Just wanted to make that clear.


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