Karl Malone will finish his career with the Utah Jazz, and he can finally ride his motorcycles without violating his contract.
The Jazz held a news conference Sunday to announce Malone had signed a new four-year deal. Malone's agent, Dwight Manley, said it's worth $66.5 million, with an immediate payment of the NBA maximum salary $14 million for next season.
"It means in a sense that what your mom told you was right," said Malone, who turned 36 on July 24. "If you work hard and dedicate yourself to something, you'll be rewarded."
Owner Larry Miller wasted no time retaining the two-time NBA MVP, perennial All-Star and two-time Dream Team member.
Malone signed Saturday at 10:01 p.m. MDT, just after midnight Sunday on the East coast as the NBA's one-month moratorium on free agent signings and trades came to an end.
"I have one goal now, and that one goal is to win the NBA championship," Malone said. "It started 14 years ago. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I'm going back to training right now."
Although Malone was a free agent, there was never a doubt he would stay in Utah, which drafted him with the 13th overall pick back in 1985.
"In five years, 10 years from now, whatever, what we'll look back on as Karl's greatness is what he did every night, year in and year out," Miller said, wiping away tears. "It's impossible to measure what Karl has done for this franchise."
As recently as last November, Malone had vowed he wouldn't play for Utah again. Miller said that was ancient history.
"It's had ups and downs, like all family relationships do," Miller said. "Whatever label you put on it, I'd call it special, and I'd call Karl special."
Malone's new deal includes an exemption from a standard clause in NBA contracts that typically prohibits players from "dangerous activities" such as skydiving or riding motorcycles.
Malone's love of Harley Davidsons has been well publicized. For years, he has regularly driven his motorcycles to games at the Delta Center. The new contract grants him permission, in writing, to ride his bikes.
"No, he's not safe on it, but that's not the point," Miller said. "When they asked for it in writing, I said 'Why? He's already been doing it for 14 years anyway."'
Malone won his second MVP award last season despite averaging 23.8 points, his lowest since his second year in the league. His rebounding average was down to 9.4, lowest since his rookie year in 1986.
The Jazz were eliminated in the second round by the Portland Trail Blazers on a night when Malone shot only 3-of-16 from the field.
Still, "The Mailman" led Utah in scoring for the 13th straight year. Malone said he's ready for the expectations the new contract will bring.
"I've taken the good with the bad all my career," Malone said. "In this business, wheyou don't have the best game, that's probably going to come up again. That's how it's going to be for the next four years."
Next, the Jazz will turn their attention to signing Utah's other key free agents: point guard John Stockton and shooting guards Jeff Hornacek and Shandon Anderson.
Miller hinted Stockton appears ready to sign a two-year deal and Hornacek is asking for a year-to-year contract. As with Malone, it's not likely Utah's big stars will get away.
Current negotiations center largely on Anderson, who has been courted by Seattle and San Antonio but might end up again with Utah because few teams can meet his asking price of more than $3 million for next season.
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