Ask San Antonio Spurs fans which current or former players they hate the most, and there's no doubt Karl Malone is very high on that list.
Aside from being a Western Conference rival and playoffs roadblock, it took little more than one swift elbow to David Robinson's head to keep him on their "hated" list.
With that in mind, Spurs fans would be interested to know that Malone almost joined the Spurs. There were several rumors years ago about Malone visiting San Antonio and even a rumor that someone spotted Malone and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at a local fast food seafood restaurant.
Malone confirmed mutual interest between both teams and even though he chose to join the Lakers, his first choice would have been the Spurs, according to an interview he had with 97.5 The Zone in Salt Lake City.
"I was in Arkansas [in 2003], and I said, whatever team wins [between the Lakers and Spurs], I'm going to the opposite. And I wanted the Spurs to lose, so I could go to them. But the [Spurs] won, but I had made up my mind 'cause I didn’t want people sittin' there sayin', 'Oh he went there [because] they won it last year.' I wanted to go help 'em."
While there's no doubt it would have been a hard sell to Spurs fans, Malone joining the Spurs in 2003-04 would have been a nice transition into the post-Robinson era.
The 2003-04 team had Rasho Nesterovic, Robert Horry, Malik Rose and Kevin Willis in the frontcourt, but none of the four listed matched Malone's marks that season with the Lakers.
Malone went on to average 13.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as the third and sometimes fourth option for the Lakers that season and the Spurs went on to lose against Malone's Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
Had Malone decided on the Spurs instead of playing with the team that lost, the Spurs could have had their first back-to-back championship.
But there's no way I'd wish against the Spurs beating the Lakers in the 2003 playoffs when that lead to their second championship and David Robinson retiring as a champion.
So that was the reason you didn't come to the Spurs. You did not want it to look like you were chasing a championship. Sorry it still looked that. Three Finals appearances and no ring. At least the Spurs won every time they made it to the Finals. It is unfortunate because I would have loved to see you paired with Duncan as opposed to Shaq, and maybe we wouldn't have to suffer through Derek Fisher 0.4 highlights.
I seem to remember this was the reason for the somewhat hasty decision to retire Elliott's Jersey when they did. Since Malone wore the same number in Utah, there was concern that Spurs fans would get in a huge uproar if he came in and wore the same number, so they decided to retire it, so it couldn't be used by anyone else.
Figure they were going to retire it anyway, but as close it he got to being a Spur may have moved up the decision to hang it in the rafters.