Three-time NBA MVP and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Moses Malone died Sunday in Norfolk, Virginia, at the age of 60.
The Virginia medical examiner’s office said Monday that Malone died of natural causes, listing the cause of death as hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Det. Jeffrey Scott of the Norfolk Police Department confirmed that Malone died in a Norfolk hotel room. Malone’s body was discovered when he failed to report to a celebrity golf tournament in which he was scheduled to play.
“We are stunned and deeply saddened by the passing of Hall of Famer Moses Malone, an NBA legend gone far too soon,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Known to his legions of fans as the ‘Chairman of the Boards,’ Moses competed with intensity every time he stepped on the court.
“… He was among the most dominant centers ever to play the game and one of the best players in the history of the NBA and the ABA. Even more than his prodigious talent, we will miss his friendship, his generosity, his exuberant personality, and the extraordinary work ethic he brought to the game throughout his 21-year pro career. Our thoughts are with Moses’ family and friends during this difficult time.”
Malone, named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, was the Finals MVP in 1983, as he led the Philadelphia 76ers to the title.
“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,” the 76ers said in a statement Sunday.
The 6-foot-10 center averaged a double-double — 20.6 points per game and 12.2 rebounds — while playing for eight teams over 20 NBA seasons and led the league in rebounding six times — including five straight seasons from 1980-85.
His 16,212 rebounds still rank fifth on the NBA’s all-time list, while his 27,409 career points rank eighth. The 12-time All-Star also holds NBA records for offensive rebounds in a career (6,731), season (587) and game (21).
“When I talked to his son [Moses Malone Jr.] this morning, he couldn’t get it out,” former Houston Rockets teammate John Lucas told ESPN. “I kept saying, ‘What are you saying?’ And he told me. … I was shocked. Moses was one of the best people that I had ever met. … A true professional, on and off the court.”
Malone joined the 76ers in 1983 and added his third MVP award while leading the 76ers to that championship after making his famed “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’,” prediction that the Sixers would win their playoff series in four-game sweeps.
He wasn’t far off: The Sixers lost just one game in that postseason before sweeping the Lakers in the NBA Finals, with Malone winning finals MVP award after averaging 26 points in that postseason.
“No one person has ever conveyed more with so few words — including three of the most iconic in this city’s history,” 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said. “His generosity, towering personality and incomparable sense of humor will truly be missed.”
Malone’s death comes shortly after the passing after another 76ers center, Darryl Dawkins.
Malone was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and attended the induction ceremonies for the year’s class in Springfield, Massachusetts this weekend before returning to his native Virginia.
The Lakers released a statement lauding Malone.
“Moses Malone was a fierce and noble competitor, and he will always be linked with Lakers playoff history,” said the Lakers’ statement, also attributed to the Buss family. “We mourn his passing today and send our condolences to his family and loved ones.”
ESPN Staff Writer Calvin Watkins and The Associated Press contributed to this report.