Moses Eats What? Malone gets the Last Laugh

Moses Eats What? Malone gets the Last Laugh

1981-82 Boston Celtics

"I don't care what the fans do," Moses Malone said. "They pay their money. They can come here buck naked if they want. I don't care."

For two hours he had been on public display, subjected to public ridicule. He had been treated as if he were some great beast that had been brought home by conquering Roman legions. He had been a captured grizzly to be taunted, the paying customers running to yell things at him last night at Boston Garden, signs being unfurled to mock him, the whole show seemingly designed to get his attention, to make him notice, to make him snarl.

The basis to the night had been some things he had said during the National Basketball Assn. playoffs last spring, followed by a thing the Boston Celtics' Larry Bird had said in reply. Moses Malone consistently had demeaned the Celtics during the playoffs, saying "I could find four guys in my hometown who could come up here and beat the Boston Celtics." Bird had spoken the comeback word after the Celts had won the title, four games to two, by agreeing with a sign at the City Hall victory celebration that Moses eats - well, something that is not very nice.

Since this game last night was the first meeting between Malone and the Rockets and Bird and the Celtics since all that happened, the entire thing had been dragged onto the stage again. Bigger now. Uglier. A group of young guys unfurled a banner behind the West basket that read "Moses Eats . . . " with a picture of a dog going to the bathroom, leaving a product. The Garden crowd of 15,320 periodically went into a chant about what Moses eats. T shirts had been on sale outside the Garden saying - in Celtic green, of course - what Moses eats.

There was some humor involved, or attempted humor, but there also was ugliness. This was the joke carried one step too far. The joke was not funny anymore.

"What'd you think about the shirts?" Moses Malone was asked.

"I think some smart man made some money off some ignorant people," Moses replied. "That's what I think."

"What'd you think about the crowd?"

"They love me here, don't they?" Moses said, a little grin on his face. "They should love me, anyway. They love Jesus, so why don't they love Moses?"

"What'd you think about the game?"

Here Moses smiled a little more. That was the kicker, wasn't it?

"I think we got together in the second half," he said. "I think we played some solid defense and got working."

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