SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Moses Malone was humbled by his induction into the Hall of Fame.
"I never thought I'd be in the Hall of Fame. I never thought of myself as a superstar," Malone said Friday. "I just worked hard."
Malone went from high school to the ABA's Utah Stars at age 19 in 1974. For the next 21 years, the quick, relentless center ruled the boards in the ABA and then the NBA.
Two of the game's best college coaches - John Chaney of Temple and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke - joined Malone in the induction class.
Krzyzewski couldn't resist a little recruiting.
"Moses, you still have four years of college eligibility left and it would be a shame to let that go to waste," he said, joking.
Duke, he said, would be more than willing to seek a rule change lifting the age limit for players.
"If you had me, you all would have been in the Hall of Fame six years ago," Malone responded.
"It was a tough decision," to skip college, Malone said, but one every kid has to make on his own. His only warning, he said, would be to remind teen-agers considering skipping college today that playing in the pros "is a job. It's not just a game. It's a way to earn a paycheck."
Few did the job better than Malone, who taught himself the game of basketball at age 13 1/2 in long, lonely hours on the courts near his Petersburg, Va., home, trying to imitate the moves of Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and his other heroes.
The 6-foot-10 Malone became the third leading rebounder in NBA history - behind Chamberlain and Bill Russell - with 16,212, and the NBA's fifth leading scorer with 27,404 points. He also ranks third in games played with 1,329, second in free-throw attempts with 11,090, and first in free throws made with 8,531.
A 12-time NBA All-Star, he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1983 NBA championship and was selected the MVP of the NBA Finals.
He also played for Houston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Washington and San Antonio.
"We had a lot of mental toughness on that team, but he gave us physical toughness. He was absolutely relentless," said Erving, his teammate on the 1983 championship team, and the Hall of Famer who presented Malone for induction.
Krzyzewski, who won his third NCAA championship at Duke this spring, was escorted by Bob Knight, his coach at West Point.
Krzyzewski said he had never given a thought to the U.S. Military Academy until the morning Knight came to the family's Chicago apartment and talked to his parents.
"They couldn't believe that someone from our family could go into that area of society," he said. "They thought it was for rich people. And we were poor."
Kids, especially poor kids, need opportunities and no coach has worked harder for student-athletes than Chaney, he said. "He's a great coach and a great man."
Chaney, 69, who grew up poor in the projects of Philadelphia, said he can never forget his high school coach, Sam Browne, who gave him the dream of attending college.
He was 50 when he was hired by Temple in 1982 and coached his first Division I game. Since then, his often unheralded recruits and smothering matchup zone have compiled a 431-179 record.
But he never dreamed of the Hall of Fame, he said. "I'm pinching myself so much it is starting to hurt."
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