This year’s NBA All-Star festivities will be held in Salt Lake City for the second time, appropriately on the 30th anniversary of Utah’s first hosting stint in 1993. The event will presumably attract plenty of Jazz alums, including Hall-of-Famer Karl Malone, who will serve as one of five judges for Saturday’s Dunk Contest at Vivint Arena.
A two-time MVP and the third-leading scorer in NBA history behind only LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Malone spent most of his career in Utah, leading the Jazz to consecutive Finals appearances in 1997-98. However, the Mailman’s legacy is complicated by an incident in his personal life, fathering a child—former Bills and Eagles offensive lineman Demetress Bell—with a 13-year-old when he was a 20-year-old college student at Louisiana Tech. Though they’ve become closer in recent years, Bell had no relationship with his father growing up, meeting for the first time when he was 17. Malone was subject to a paternity suit as well as child-support payments, which he later contested in court.
Charges were never brought against Malone (Louisiana’s legal age of consent is 17), though the controversy has rightfully tarnished his public image. For that reason, Malone has kept a relatively low profile in his post-playing career, keeping public appearances to a minimum including last year when he was absent from the NBA’s 75th Anniversary celebration in Cleveland.
It's impossible to host an All-Star Game without celebrating the city that it’s in. Unfortunately for Utah, that’s problematic when the city’s two biggest stars are Malone, a known abuser guilty of statutory rape, and John Stockton, who spread a dangerous conspiracy theory falsely claiming that “hundreds” of athletes had died from the COVID vaccine. Having Malone front and center at the Dunk Contest isn’t a great look for anyone, tainting an event that should be a showcase for the league’s brightest stars. Malone may be a part of the Jazz’s history, but the optics couldn’t be much worse, lending tacit approval to a disgraced player who shouldn’t be anywhere near All-Star Weekend.
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