NBA legend Moses Malone died in his sleep Sunday morning. The NBA great died of an apparent heart attack, his close friend and former teammate Calvin Murphy told Houston Fox affiliate KRIV. Murphy was in Virginia with Malone to play in a celebrity golf tournament. The news was later confirmed by his former teams the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, although they did not detail a cause of death.
“We came down here together,” Murphy told KRIV. “Last night we were having a great time. … This morning we got up to play in a golf tournament and he didn’t come to breakfast, which is very unlike Mo. We were all leaving to go to the golf tournament. Finally, they sent security to his room. I guess he had a heart attack in his sleep. This is what was told to me this morning.”
Malone is known for being one of the first high school players to turn pro when he decided to sign with the Utah Stars of the ABA in 1974 rather than attend the University of Maryland. He played a season with the Stars, then a season with the Sprits of St. Louis before the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, when he went to play for the Buffalo Braves, according to ESPN. He also played for the Rockets, 76ers, Washington Bullets, and Atlanta Hawks, and ended his career with the San Antonio Spurs. He won MVP in 1979 and 1982 with the Rockets and then again in 1983 with the 76ers.
The 6-foot-10 center, nicknamed the “Chairman of the Boards,” “gets overlooked all too often in the discussions of the greatest centers ever,” notes NBC’s Kurt Helin. “He was one of the greatest offensive rebounders the game has ever seen.” He also led the NBA in most rebounds per game for five straight seasons from 1980 to 1985, notes the Associated Press.
“It is difficult to express what his contributions to this organization—both as a friend and player—have meant to us, the city of Philadelphia and his faithful fans,” the 76ers said in a statement. “Moses holds a special place in our hearts and will forever be remembered as a genuine icon and pillar of the most storied era in the history of Philadelphia 76ers basketball. No one person has ever conveyed more with so few words—including three of the most iconic in this city’s history.” Those words were the now-famous “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’,” which he said in an interview predicting the Sixers would win each round of the playoffs in 1983.