№14: John Stockton Player Spotlight | Pop Quiz: Can you name all of the season NBA Champions, NBA Finals MVP’s, and NBA Playoffs Statistical Leaders since 1980? | + More!
April 13, 2021
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This week’s spotlight is on the Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton. Like fine wine, the respect for his career accomplishments and contribution to the game of basketball have only increased over time. Read more about John in the section below.
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Welcome to Player Spotlight! Inspired by the writings of the late Zander Hollander (Sportswriter, archivist, and author of the ever informative The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball), I decided to put my 30 years of basketball knowledge to some use and come up with a short, free flowing, and non-linear/viewpoint narrative on the featured player.
Born John Houston Stockton (March 26, 1962). Hailing from Spokane, Washington[i], John Stockton decided to remain in his hometown and attend college at Gonzaga University (As of this writing, GU is the alma mater of four generations of his family). After garnering the West Coast Athletic Conference (WCAC) Player of the Year award during his senior year for the Bulldogs, Stockton was invited to the 1984 U.S. Olympic team spring tryouts wherein he was among the final four to be cut. It was during this Olympic tryouts experience that John Stockton would meet future Jazz teammate and friend Karl Malone.
When the Utah Jazz took the little known John Stockton with the 16th overall selection in the 1984 NBA Draft, it was initially met with great public indifference. After starting only 45 out of a possible 246 games in his first three seasons in the association, Stockton became the Jazz’ primary point guard—a role that he would remain in for the next sixteen seasons.
During this period, he would lead the NBA in assists for nine consecutive seasons (1987-88 to 1995-96) and in steals on two occasions (1988-89 and 1991-92) while only missing 22 out of a possible 1258 games. How dominant was John Stockton during his prime? In NBA history, there have only been three players who have have recorded a 1000 assist season. The first two played for the Detroit Pistons: Kevin Porter (1978-79 season | 1099 assists) and Isiah Thomas (1984-85 season | 1123 assists). Then you have Stockton who turned the trick in five consecutive seasons (1987-88 to 1991-92) and in seven out of the last nine seasons.
In 1989-90 and 1990-91, John Stockton averaged 14.54 and 14.20 assists per game! Making his expected game average in those seasons a career game for other players!
Over his 19-year playing career (1504 career games | 1300 starts), John Stockton was a durable passing and defensive savant. He was also a mark of consistency that was punctuated by leading the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in every year of his career (Highlighted by two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998). He is the all-time leader—by a wide margin—in assists (15,806) and steals (3265). Two records that will likely never be broken.
John Stockton was part of the gold medal 1992—the first national team to feature NBA players—and 1996 U.S. Olympic teams. He is a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2009 [Player] | 2010 [As a member of the 1992 USA Olympic Team]) and one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players (1996).
In 2013, John Stockton (with Kerry L. Pickett) released an autobiography entitled Assisted. [I am still in process of finish the book and will update this part of the newsletter once I’m done.]
Growing up during the Chicago Bulls dynasty, I rooted hard against John Stockton and the Utah Jazz. There was however that respect for the way he conducted himself and played the game of basketball. Listed at 6’1”, Stockton offensive efficiency, court awareness, defensive intensity, and durability may not have had the flash of Magic or the speed of Isiah, but in his own right, the man was a statistical giant.
For me, I liken John Stockton to the movie Empire Strikes Back. I didn’t love it when I first saw it. But as I grew older, I learned to appreciate it’s true worth and greatness.
Here are former NBA players Chris Webber and Gary Payton sharing some of their John Stockton stories:
Caption: In this segment of The Dan Patrick Show, Chris Webber weighs in on John Stockton.
Caption: Hall of Famer Gary “The Glove” Payton goes into overtime as he discusses how difficult it was to play against John Stockton.
Before I end this this week’s player spotlight, here is John Stockton’s Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech in Springfield, Massachusetts (September 11, 2009).
[i]Until I did this retrospective, there was only one other time that I heard of Spokane, Washington. That was in this Frasier episode (Frasier Has Spokane | Season 9, Episode 21).
Who is your Best NBA Starting Five? (Circa 2000-2009)
Open Court is such a great concept because the guests on the show have not only played basketball at the highest level, they have likely played against the players they are deliberating on.
As for my 2000’s Starting Five, these were the players that I felt dominated the decade. At the onset, I took liberties with their positions. They have all won at least one MVP award with the exception of Jason Kidd (who finished second to Duncan in the 2001-02 MVP voting).
Point Guard: Jason Kidd
Shooting Guard: Steve Nash (2-time MVP)
Small Forward: Kobe Bryant (MVP)
Power Forward: Tim Duncan (2-time MVP)
Center: Shaquille O’Neal (MVP)
Who are your five?
Leave your list at the end of this newsletter.
Can you name all of the season NBA Champions, NBA Finals MVP’s, and NBA Playoffs Statistical Leaders since 1980?
89%! Apologies to Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, Ben Wallace, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley as I drew a blank towards the end.
Let me know how you did and leave a comment at the end of this newsletter.
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Till next week, have a good one! ■
Tedi Gustilo Villasor, Ph.D. is a former columnist for Baby Magazine (Philippines) as well as a past contributor to NBA.com/Philippines. His other works include the indie comic books Lindol and Obsessions.
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