When the LSU Tigers won the National Championship in 2020, future NFL star and Cincinnati Bengal Joe Burrow and his teammates were nearly arrested for lighting up victory cigars in the locker room. Burrow, well known for his victory cigars, smokes a variety that includes La Flor Dominicanas. However, on that fateful night back in 2020, Burrow was smoking a Karl Malone made by La Aurora. Yes, NBA legend Karl “The Mailman” Malone.
The former power forward, whom many consider the best the NBA has ever seen, prefers to keep a low profile these days. He is a family man, an avid outdoorsman, and a jack of all trades. Since retiring from the NBA in 2004 and moving back to his hometown in Louisiana, Malone has had his hand in various businesses. From car dealerships to fast food franchises, “the Mailman” has been active since his playing days. When he isn’t deer hunting or spending time with family, he can be found at Legends, the cigar and vape shop he owns and runs with his daughter, Kadee.
Here’s a look at the Utah Jazz Hall of Famer, Olympic Gold medalist, and maker of barrel-aged rum-infused cigars by La Aurora.
Malone was born in Summerfield, Louisiana in 1963. The youngest of nine children, Malone was raised by a single mother and spent his childhood hunting and fishing. After leading his high school team to several Louisiana titles he played his college ball at Louisiana Tech University. In 1985 he led them to their first NCAA tournament. The team lost in the Sweet 16, and Malone was on his way to the NBA.
NBA Star and Olympian
The Utah Jazz drafted him 13th that year, and so began one of the most prolific NBA careers of all time. Malone, nicknamed “the Mailman” because he always delivered, is third all-time in NBA scoring and led the Jazz to the playoffs every single year of his career.
He was a star immediately upon entering the league, averaged 14.9 points a game, and made the 1986 All-Rookie Team. The Jazz were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs that year, but Malone and teammate John Stockton would become one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history. By 1988 Malone averaged 27.1 points per game and made his first All-Star appearance. He was selected to the All-Star team for the next 14 seasons.
Behind Malone and Stockton, the Jazz were consistent contenders in the Western Conference, and Malone was consistently among the top scorers in the league. However, Malone had the misfortune of playing in an era with Michael Jordan and frequently finished just behind the legendary Chicago Bull. The two became teammates along with other NBA greats Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson to represent the United States in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Dubbed the Dream Team, they easily won the gold in 1992 and again in 1996. Many consider it the greatest sports team ever assembled.
Hall of Famer
Despite playing in 1,476 games, scoring 36,928 points, and winning two MVP awards, Malone never won an NBA championship. He lost to Jordan and the Bulls in two straight Finals in 1997 and 1998. Malone had one last shot at a championship in 2004 when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Malone’s hopes were dashed when the Pistons stunned the heavily favored Lakers in five games.
Malone retired after 19 seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. The Jazz retired his jersey in 2006 and commemorated him and his teammate Stockton with bronze statues outside EnergySolutions Arena.
Life After Basketball
Malone coached at his alma mater and for the Jazz for a time. He owns several businesses, but he prioritizes his family first. After some controversy and paternity suits, Malone reconciled with his children from two women he knew in the 1980s. He has been married to Kay Kinsey since 1990 and has four children. Son K.J. played football at LSU and later coached, which was how those victory cigars ended up in the locker room after the championship.
Deer hunting and fishing also take up plenty of his time. He entered the cigar world after traveling to the Dominican Republic several times. He learned the process of cigar making and worked with Master Blender Manuel Inoa to create his own blend. Malone’s cigars are aged in rum barrels, have spicy aromatic notes, and like the man who created them, are dynamic and complex.
Malone is a long way from the court. Many patrons of his Legends Cigar and Vape in Ralston, Louisiana know him simply as Karl, a hunter. Malone co-owns the shop and lounge with Kadee, but he’s the first to admit she runs the show. The Mailman prefers to kick back and enjoy friends, family, and a fine cigar.
photo credit: Cigar Life Guy