John Stockton, NBA Hall of Famer
September 13, 2009 -
John Stockton is my favorite basketball player of all time. He is the reason I became a Jazz fan. I was 14 years old when the Jazz took the heavily favored (and much hated) Lakers to 7 games in the 1988 Western Conference Semifinals. My family had moved to Utah a couple of years earlier, but I had not particularly embraced the home team up until that point.
By the end of that incredible series, I was hooked. Although the Jazz eventually lost, Stockton turned in one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever witnessed. He set the NBA playoff series record for assists (115) and steals (28). He was particularly dominant in the decisive game 7, when he scored 29 points and dished 20 assists in a losing effort. I recall being amazed that a guy who was roughly my size and didn't appear extraordinarly athletic could do what he did.
Fast forward 9 years… I still remember vividly where I was when Stockton hit “the shot” against Houston in Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, sending the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time. The ensuing celebration is by far the most emotion I’ve ever seen from Stockton or Jerry Sloan and was so much fun to watch.
Fast forward another 12 years… I still get chills every time I see that video clip.
It’s somewhat ironic that Stockton was enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend at the same time as the man primarily responsible for his never winning an NBA title -- the sole blemish on an otherwise perfect resume. Stockton is certainly not the only hall-of-famer to be denied a championship by Michael Jordan, but I digress...
While I’m not an advocate of short shorts for men, I love how Stockton shunned the hip-hop culture that overtook the NBA and remained true to himself throughout his career. Stock stood as an enigma in a league where showboating, trash talking, and self-glorification became the norm. He carried himself with a quiet confidence but was as selfless off the court as we was on it. He never sought the spotlight and was always quick to deflect credit or praise to his teammates.
I feel safe saying that there will never be another player quite like Stockton. His career record for assists has about as much chance of ever being broken as I have of being the one to break it. His career record for steals is only slightly less safe. He played 19 NBA seasons and only missed 22 games over that span. Benearth that choir-boy exterior was a true warrior.
I don’t pretend to be an objective audience, but John Stockton was the greatest point guard ever to play the game.