When the Louisiana State University 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 Dominicana sticks. However, on that fateful night in 2020, Burrow was smoking a Karl Malone — a small batch, barrel-aged cigar made by La Aurora. The brand named the smoke after 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 today. However, 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, you’ll find him 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 college ball at Louisiana Tech University. In 1985 he led them to their first NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the team lost in the Sweet 16 bracket, and Malone was heading to the NBA.
NBA Star and Olympian
The Utah Jazz drafted him as their thirteenth pick that year and began one of the most prolific NBA careers of all time. Malone, nicknamed “the Mailman” because he always delivered, is the third-best all-time in NBA scoring. In addition, he led the Jazz to the playoffs every year during his career.
Malone was a star immediately upon entering the league; he averaged 14.9 points per game and made the 1986 All-Rookie Team. The Jazz were eliminated during the first round of the playoffs that year, but Malone and teammate John Stockton became 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. The Jazz then selected him to join the All-Star team for 14 seasons.
Behind Malone and Stockton, the Jazz were consistent contenders in the Western Conference, and Malone was regularly 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. However, the two became teammates with other NBA greats, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, representing the United States in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Dubbed the “Dream Team,” they easily won the gold medal game 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. However, he gave it one last shot during the 2004 championship. He joined the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Consequently, disappointment arrived 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. Then, they commemorated him and John Stockton with bronze statues outside Vivint Arena (formerly EnergySolutions Arena).
Life After Basketball
Malone coached at his alma mater and for the Jazz for a while. He also 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 during the 1980s. He married to Kay Kinsey in 1990 and has four children. Son K.J. played football at Louisiana State University for a while. Later, he transitioned to coaching, 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 and have spicy aromatic notes. They are as dynamic and complex as the man who made them.
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