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Why Stockton's my favorite non Celtic player

Posted by shawn cassidy on September 3, 2013 at 5:15 AM



I was lucky enough to see Stockton in his prime, and during his later years when he helped lead the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals.I don't know if will see another John Stockton. He carried himself in a different way. He wasn't an asshole, and he wasn't arrogant. He was happy with no attention. Stockton wasn't the most physically gifted, and he didn't have a lot of athleticism for his 6ft 1in, and 175lbs frame.  John went to work every single night. He wasn't flashy, or into fashion. He was just your everyday guy. When the Celtics were bad in the mid to late 90's. I adopted the Jazz as my team to watch when the Celtics were off. I followed the Jazz during their magical playoff runs in 1997, and in 1998 when they lost to the Bulls in the Finals each season.



Stockton avoided most endorsements. You wouldn't find him on a shoe commercial, or selling cars. Stockton stayed loyal to Utah despite being offered significantly more money by other teams. In 1996, he agreed to a deal that made salary-cap space available so the team could improve. Who does that? We hoped for the past of years that some players would do that to play in Boston. Another thing about Stockton was that he rarely missed games. He had one season where he missed 4 games, and in 1998 he missed 18 games. Out of the other 17 years he didn't miss any games. Stock holds the NBA's record for most career assists (15,806) by a margin of more than 3,000, as well as the record for most career thefts with (3,265). With Gary Payton heading into the hall of fame, he had some great words about John Stockton.

 





Sheridan Hoops

Q: Did John Stockton ever talk trash back to you?

A: ”Never. That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he’d just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over. There was much respect to him doing that to me. It taught me a lot.”

Q: Even so, you once said you were better than Stockton?

A: ”I was. I really think I was better as an athlete and in everything all-around. But he was just a smarter basketball player than us. He just got it done. I do think I was a better basketball player. I can do more things skills-wise. He just showed he knew how to play the game and that was the biggest difference.”

Q: You say Stockton was the hardest to guard, but what about guarding Michael Jordan?

A: ”Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say nothing and you couldn’t figure him out.



Payton was more gifted, but Stockton was gifted up stairs. He was smart, and he knew the game better than anyone. I loved seeing these comments. It reminded me why I love Stockton. Stockton wasn't going to give into anyone else, and he was a big time players, he made countless plays in big games, and who could forget his buzzer beater against the Rockets in the 1997 Western Conference Finals. I believe that Stockton, and Malone had the best team that never won in NBA history. I thought they would have won it all in 1999. They were fresh off of two loses to the Bulls, and Jordan just retired. The season was shorted to because of the lockout. I thought the Jazz were going to get over the hump. The Jazz were bounced in the second round by an up and coming Blazers team.


Those two finals loses sting just as much as a Celtics Finals loss for me. I really got attached to the Jazz when the Celtics had Eric Montross as their center, and Rick Fox as their go to guy. Stockton and Malone's Jazz became my second team. Stockton was announced as a member of the 2009 class of inductees to the  Hall of fame on April 6, 2009; he was formally inducted on September 11. Stockton chose 2000 inductee and fellow point guard Isiah Thomas to present him at the induction ceremony. I thought that was a great move by Stockton.


I don't know if will ever see a player like Stockton again, and I think his record for most assists is untouchable.


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1 Comment

Reply paul
7:16 AM on September 3, 2013 
I love it that Stockton picked Thomas. That shows real class and understanding, if you ask me, because Thomas has been forgotten and reviled. Thomas is my all time favorite non-celtic. He might be the pg most similar to Rondo. He's so underrated in NBA history. Take him away and the Pistons might not even be a good team. I feel like Thomas was a lot like Russell. He learned how to give his team exactly what it needed. Oftentimes the psychological effect of what he needed was more important than the scoreboard effect. He had greatness. Greatness inspires teammates. I think what hampered Thomas as a GM is that he never really got how important he was to his team. I think he's tried to build teams like the Pistons, but the Pistons were a gang of stooges without Thomas. Thomas was like Rondo in that he'd pick his spots. He'd not dominate a whole game, or every game, but when the team needed him too, he'd suddenly turn into the best player in the universe and take over games. And he'd make plays that might have been called 'flashy', but were instead inspired. It means a lot to a team to know that they have someone who can, when needed, take things to the next level and beyond that. It makes them feel that they can beat anyone. The Cs have this in Rondo. I think that one of the things that made the biggest difference in 2011-2012 was that one play were Rondo threw the 360 degree pass to Allen. It was a moment that said "we are special". A team that believes it is special can beat anyone. That's why I think this coming season we could accomplish a lot more than anyone thinks, depending on Rondo's state of health and mind. As workmanlike as Stockton was, he may have been a little TOO workmanlike. I don't think he had that extra gear.



Great words from Payton too. Impressive humility to say such things about a competitor.