Prior to James being brought out onto the stage, the league introduced the now second and third all-time scorers with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Malone joining James before posing for photos with the all-time great.
Criticism kicked off before the All Star Weekend got underway when Malone’s involvement was first announced, the photo of him striking a pose alongside the two legends was the spark that lit the fuse.
So why is there so much anger towards the NBA for including a man who has a resume almost every basketball player could only ever dream of?
Malone is considered one of the greatest power forwards to ever grace the hardwood, finishing his career as a two-time MVP, 14-time All Star and scoring a mammoth 36,928 points.
The anger however has nothing to do with his basketball career, it instead stems from an incident off the court two years before he became a member of the Utah Jazz.
In 1983, a 20-year-old Malone impregnated a 13-year-old girl, Gloria Bell.
No charges were ever brought against Malone over the damning incident, with Bell telling The Salt Lake Tribune in 1998 statutory rape charges weren’t considered because Malone “could not provide support for the child from jail”.
Malone however largely ignored his responsibilities as a father, meeting his son for the first time as a 17-year-old when he graduated from high school.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Gordon Monson noting: “Malone initially denied paternity and later agreed to a settlement that reportedly did not require him to admit he was the child’s father.”
Demetress Bell grew up to become an offensive tackle in the NFL, playing for the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
Malone was pressed on his past mistakes during media availability and offered up a rather damning response.
“I’m not discussing any of that backlash,” Malone told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I don’t care. That’s my life, that’s my personal life, and I’ll deal with that like I’ve had to deal with everything. So, whatever.”
When asked to elaborate further, Malone responded, “Whatever, I’m human.”
It’s an incident the third-best scorer in NBA history has never publicly addressed and over the weekend it was evident the league wanted to push it aside and only focus on his on-court achievements.
Fans weren’t pleased with his presence. Basketball lovers were quick to call out the NBA for honouring and shining a light on Malone despite the moment proving to be a dark cloud on festivities.
ESPN personality Bomani Jones didn’t shy away from it during his HBO show Game Theory when answering a fan question.
“You could make this question what are your thoughts about Karl Malone and stop it right there,” Jones said.
“I hated him before I had a great reason, I only had good ones. Like being a dirty player and elbowing people all the time.
“And then we find out the whole thing, if you don’t know this, that when he was in college he had a baby with a twelve-year-old.”
The audience in attendance, clearly unaware of Malone’s past indiscretion, gasped at hearing this.
Jones was far from alone in condemning both Malone and the NBA for including the former Utah Jazz superstar and his involvement throughout the weekend.