Karl Malone is Awesome

Note–This is a paper I did for my Principles of Visual Media class

For the last analysis paper, I thought I would switch it up from the photo shopped and hilarious images I have done for the past two papers. I wanted to do a vintage sports poster, one from an era where the superstar athlete would go and dress up for a fun and unique poster, rather than what most posters currently consist of which is a live action shot. Most of these vintage posters look really good, and fortunately for us, most have turned out to be unintentionally hilarious. The poster I chose for this final paper is one of the unintentionally funny types.  As I describe it to you, you will not believe that once upon a time it was okay for things like this to exist. This poster is just too ruggedly manly for today’s modern world. Karl Malone was one of the greatest basketball players of all time for the Utah Jazz, hooking up with John Stockton to bring the Jazz to two NBA Finals, winning two MVP awards, and starting at power forward for the best team ever assembled, the Dream Team. He was also an avid outdoorsman and he loved driving big rigs. This post capitalizes on his love of big trucks and the outdoors. As the poster simply puts, it is “awesome”.

This image shows the mighty Karl Malone standing smugly with his hands in his pants against his large, oversized pick-up truck. He has a cowboy hat and boots on, and a jeans and a jean vest with no shirt on beneath it. Did I mention the jeans are ripped? Surrounding Malone is the rugged wilderness from which he hails from in Louisiana. The poster has KARL MALONE up top in big maroon block letters and AWESOME on the bottom in big black block letters. It also features Malone’s autograph above his black pick-up truck. The composition of this image is typical for a poster of its time. It flows from top to bottom and is very simply designed and easy to understand, even from a distance. As for visual cues, most of the colors are blue, black, and shades of brown and yellow of the wilderness. There is no movement in this image, but a decent amount of depth with a patch of grass in front, the car and Malone in the middle and the trees in the background. There aren’t really any semiotic cues, everything stands for it what it means, in fact “awesome” pretty much spells it out for you. I think an audience would respond to this image as looking like a poster, and thus judge it by its silliness and the unique image it presents. The purpose of this image is to tell the NBA world, and the world at large, that Karl Malone is awesome. I think that aesthetically this image is carefully constructed and very well done.

My gut reaction to this Karl Malone poster was first a smirk, and then a rush of nogistalga because they really would never ever make a poster this insane in this era. No NBA player would just pose in a ripped jeans and a jean vest with no shirt underneath, at least non-ironically anyways, thus its place in history as a relic of the 1990s. It is nice to see a player show some personality, I feel most players would rather just be dunking with the word “swag” on their posters. This poster was created by Costacos Sports, a company that makes sports posters to this day but had an iconic run in the late 1980s and early 1990s with sports posters similar to the one in the paper. They are very rare and go for high prices on eBay.  There is a slight ethic dilemma on this poster, as it is a little bit scandalous for Karl Malone to be posing in a suggestive way with his shirt off and his hands in his pants because of an incident when he was in college where he was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Today this poster would absolutely not be made, but back 20 years ago it was much easier to avoid media scrutiny and sweep controversies under the rug. As for cultural perspective, what this image says is universal to all cultures: Karl Malone is Awesome. Trucks with monster wheels may be limited to certain parts of America however, and people from different countries might not get an understanding on who Karl Malone is and why he is so awesome. I think this is a great poster. I’d gladly hang it in my room as a relic of the 1990s. This poster doesn’t force you to make too much of a critical response, because it tells you as plain and simple as a Stockton to Malone pick-and-roll: Karl Malone is awesome.


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