If you're anything like me, you've spent the last week or so racking your brain trying to figure out what you can buy NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone to celebrate his 50th birthday. (Which is today, so get on it, last-minute shoppers.) First, I was going to tweet little facts about him all day, but @NBAHistory beat me to that. Then, I was going to dance somewhat suggestively with a nice lady at his birthday party, but there's no way I'd be able to outdo Charles Barkley. I mean, I'd thought of everything, but nothing seemed right.
So you can imagine my dismay when I finally settled on the perfect gift for the legendary power forward and noted huntsman ... only to learn, by way of Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, that he'd already bought it for himself:
Former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone, who turns 50 on Wednesday, has made one concession to age.
He bought a mule. [...]
Malone’s passion for fitness is matched by his love of hunting and fishing. Hiking through the thick forests and rolling hills of Louisiana and Arkansas in pursuit of game has been a favorite hobby since his mother, Shirley, first allowed him to do so.
Malone has always done the strenuous physical work his pastime requires by himself — at least until recently.
"Instead of being the athlete and walking everywhere, he got himself a mule," said Kay Malone, his wife. "… I think he’s listening to his body more. He’s preserving himself more. He wants to be able to do things with the grandkids."
Like, one would assume, go on long mule rides.
I know this is going to be a controversial opinion, but I think the news that "The Mailman" has purchased a mule to ride to save himself the physical exertion of walking everywhere tops my previous favorite Karl Malone mule anecdote, which came in 2012 when he was asked if he'd ever join the coaching staff of the team for which he starred for 18 years:
"Oh no, no. We done been there. You can't beat the fart out of a dead mule."
Well, apparently you can, but for the sake of Karl's new purchase, I really hope we don't have any cause to take this from Metaphor World into the Land of the Literal any time soon.
It's also good to know that Karl's continuing a time-honored family tradition, as relayed in this April 2013 SLAM feature:
It all begins with a small, leather harness, made for young Karl Malone by his mule-riding, log-hauling country-strong grandfather, so the boy could spend a day out in the logging world to know what hard work is. His grandfather taught Malone: give ’em your best every time and you’ll be rewarded.
Given how much Malone loves to hunt, ride and command the great outdoors, I can only hope he'll gain satisfaction from using this new mule in ways he was once contractually forbidden from doing, even while acting as a spokesperson for an outdoors website, while an active player in Utah back in 2000:
The only thing he can't do, under his current Jazz contract, he said, was shoot a firearm off the back of a horse or mule.
"And that cost me a trophy black bear in Wyoming three weeks ago," he told the group. He then said he was glad he didn't when he learned the mule he was riding would get unsettled at gunfire.
And don't you dare think that Malone's some Johnny-Come-Lately when it comes to thinking that mules are great:
Malone said he already hunts, camps, makes an occasional bungee jump and cooks over the open fire. He then proceeded to give the group a clinic on the advantages of mules over horses on a hunting trip.
"You see, there's a (TV) show right there," he said. "Mules won't put their feet where it's a danger to them. Horses will. So don't go out and buy one of those fancy thoroughbreds and find you're on your back and your wife collecting on the big insurance policy."
I really, really hope that Malone takes time out of his workouts with modern-day Jazz big man Derrick Favors to discuss the finer points of mule footwork. Not even as a metaphor for the intricacies of post play, either — just so that Favors leaves the gym knowing a little more about mules than he did when he got to the gym that day.
In conclusion: Happy birthday, Karl Malone, and enjoy your mule. I never wound up buying you anything, but I hope you appreciate that I spent some time looking up and writing about your history with mules.
Hat-tip to SLAM's Marcel Mutoni.
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