NORTH AUGUSTA -When Moses reaches the promised land, it will be as a Philadelphia 76er.
Future NBA Hall of Famer Moses Malone said that he will enter the Hall of Fame in 2000 as a 76er. Malone, who last played in the NBA during the 1994-95 season, is eligible for induction at the turn of the 21st century.
Malone, who is the NBA's No. 3 all-time leading scorer and No. 5 rebounder, played for Utah and St. Louis in the old ABA and Buffalo, Houston, Philadelphia (twice), Washington, Atlanta, Milwaukee and San Antonio in the NBA. He played 21 seasons of professional basketball, including 19 in the NBA.
``I'm going as a 76er,'' said Malone, who was on hand to tip off the second annual Nike Peach Jam Invitational Tournament. ``That 1983 team gave me the opportunity to play with other great players and personalities like Dr. J (Julius Erving), Maurice Cheek, Andrew Toney, Bobby Jones and we had a great coach in Billy Cunningham.''
The 76ers won the 1983 NBA title by sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. Malone was named the most valuable player of the NBA Finals. It was the only title that Malone and Erving, an Hall of Famer, won during their NBA careers.
Philadelphia only lost one playoff game that season in going 11-1 in postseason play.
Malone, 42, was the first player to successfully jump from high school to professional basketball when he was drafted by the Utah Stars in the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1974.
The 6-foot-10 center said it's about the money - the millions of dollars that these teen-age stars can make. If you have the talent and you're ready, he doesn't have a problem with it.
Some of the players at this week's Nike Peach Jam Invitational are considering the same option that Malone made 23 years ago.
``It was an opportunity for me to help my mother, get an education, make some money, travel and meet a lot of people,'' said Malone of his jump. ``We had guys on our team like Walter Jones and Roger Brown that I looked at like father figures. I respected those guys and they kept me grounded.''
Malone, who may be the best rebounder the NBA has ever known, said the kids must still work hard after the millions if they hope to make a name for themselves in the game.
Laziness and being satisfied with the millions is not enough.
``If you want to play this game and do well at it, you have to work hard,'' Malone said. ``You can't be lazy. If you want to be lazy, be a pitcher.''
Also in attendance at Howard White's ``Believe to Achieve,'' event was Houston Rockets forward Kevin Willis, Detroit Pistons forward Grant Long, Charlotte Hornets television commentary Gil McGregor and Judy Holland, vice president for community relations for the NBA's Washington Wizards and the NHL's Washington Capitals.
Willis said he knows that being an NBA player that kids are attentive and more likely to listen.
``I enjoy doing this,'' said Willis, who played with Malone with the Atlanta Hawks in the late '80s. ``I like to try to encourage young people. Even if I wasn't a professional basketball player, I would want to be a positive person. If I can be a positive person, not really a role model, maybe they will want to follow in my footsteps.''
New York Knicks power forward Charles Oakley was a no-show.
Rick Myer, the supervisor for North Augusta Parks & Recreations, estimated the crowd at approximately 1,000 fans. Nike was ready to give away 2,000 T-shirts.
Kids who missed this opportunity to get t-shirts can get another chance Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. when a coaches clinic is planned.