John Stockton is considered to be one of the best point guard
s in NBA
history, owning the career and single-season assist
records, as well as the career record for steals
. Along with Karl Malone
, has formed one of the best inside-outside combinations in NBA history, yet has never won an NBA championship in his 17 season career (through 2000-2001) spent with the Utah Jazz
Stockton (DOB: 3/26/1962; Spokane, Washington) stayed in Spokane for college, going to school at Gonzaga University, hardly a basketball power. His senior year he was the West Coast Conference MVP, but wasn't considered one of the best players in the nation. He was cut during tryouts for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.
The Utah Jazz drafted Stockton 16th overall in the 1984 NBA draft (the same draft which produced Hakeem Olajuwon (1st), Michael Jordan (3rd) and Charles Barkley (5th)).
Stockton played in all 82 games his rookie season, only starting 5, tallying only 5.6 points per game and 5.1 assists per game.
In his following two seasons, Stockton remained mostly a substitute off the bench, but his scoring and assists increased each year. Perhaps more significantly to Stockton's career, the Jazz selected Karl Malone 13th in the 1985 draft.
Stockton became a starter in 1987-1988, and not only led the NBA in assists, with 1128 (13.8 per game), but also broke the all-time league record for assists in a season (Isiah Thomas had 1123 in 1984-1985).
Stockton also improved Malone's game, as Malone went from 21.7 points per game the year before to 27.7 points per game (5th in the league). Stockton-to-Malone would become one of the most prolific and dominant small man-big man combinations in history, rivaling Cousy-to-Russell for the great Boston Celtics teams in the '50s and '60s..
Passing was Stockton's strength, and he led the NBA in assists 9 straight seasons (from 1987-1988 through 1995-1996), the most all-time (Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics led the league 8 times). He also broke his own single-season assists record (recording a career-high of 1164 in 1990-1991 for 14.2 per game; the year earlier he set a career high in assists per game, with 14.5. However, he played several fewer games, so totalled only 1134 assists).
Through the 2000-2001 season, Stockton has 14,503 assists. Magic Johnson is a distant 2nd all-time with 10,141.
Stockton's greatness was recognized in 1992, when he was named to the first Dream Team for the Barcelona Olympics and won the gold medal which eluded him in 1984. 4 years later, Stockton was a part of Dream Team III, winning his second gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Malone was also a part of both teams.
Defense is another of Stockton's strengths, and he has the NBA's all-time career leader in steals (with 2976 through the end of the 2000-2001 season; Maurice Cheeks is second all-time, with 2310).
Stockton was never a great scorer, as his career high was only 17.2 points per game (in both 1989-1990 and 1990-1991). Still, he was a consistent second option to Malone. From 1987-1988 through 2000-2001 (current), Stockton never averaged less than 11.1 points per game.
In 1993, Stockton and Malone were named Co-MVPs of the NBA All-Star Game, which was held in front of the Jazz's fans in Salt Lake City. Stockton played in 9 straight All Star Games from 1989-1997. He also was an All Star in 2000.
Stockton and Malone took the Jazz from mediocrity to becoming one of the best teams in the NBA and a perennial championship contender. Unfortunately for Stockton and Malone, the two times the Jazz made it to the NBA Finals (in 1997 and 1998), they met Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls won both times, in 6 games.
In 1996, the NBA named Stockton one of The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (as was Malone).
Both Stockton and Malone are nearing the end of their careers, and their playing time is declining. Still, Stockton's one of the best passers in the league. In 2000-2001, he finished second in assists to Jason Kidd, despite playing considerably less minutes. However, time seems to be running out fast on Stockton and Malone's dream of an NBA championship. They seem destined to go down in basketball history as two of the best players to never have won a title.
Still, Stockton's legacy is secure. He will go down as one of the best passers in NBA history, although not as flashy or flamboyant as Magic Johnson or Isiah Thomas. He just created plays and combined that with solid defense.
It's arguable about whether Stockton would be as good as he was without Malone (and vice versa). Still, his stats speak for themselves and Stockton is on just about anyone's list of the top few point guards in NBA history.