The duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone are inseparable. For 18 years they brought playoff basketball and pick-and-roll offense to Utah. No two players ran that bread and butter play as well and as often as those two did.
But Stockton was much more than the feeder of Malone’s baskets.
He was obviously a sterling ball-handler who had an incredibly low amount of turnovers considering just how much offensive responsibility he had. He was also a fantastic defender who made liberal use of the NBA’s defensive rules to annoy and pester opponents. His shooting was off the charts. He could make a jumper from any spot on the floor and had a sneaky ability to finish at the basket with scooping layups.
Perhaps his best asset though was durability. In a career that spanned 19 seasons, Stockton played every game in 17 of them and missed a grand total of 22 games out of a possible 1526 games played.
He didn’t just play well, he played all the time.
Well, eventually he played all the time. During his first three seasons, Stockton was locked into a time-share at point guard with Rickey Green. Green was a former All-Star guard in his own right and rightfully held starter’s duties, but as time marched on it became clear Stockton was the future. By the 1987-88 season he was Utah’s clear starter and he helped push the club to their first of many extended playoff runs.
That 1988 postseason matched the Jazz against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Stockton dazzled opposite of the NBA’s premier point guard Magic Johnson. In Game 5 of the series John went berserk with 23 points, 24 assists, and 5 steals in a two-point loss. In Game 7 of the series Stockton again went bonkers with 29 points, 20 assists, and 5 steals. The Jazz lost this game as well, though.
From that point through 2003, the Jazz would make the second round of the playoff eight times, the Conference Finals five times, and the NBA Finals twice. The Jazz had a revolving door of talented players like Jeff Malone, Mark Eaton, Darrell Griffith, Jeff Hornacek, and Thurl Bailey, but it was Stockton and (Karl) Malone that were there for the whole ride.
They likely would have been great wherever they went, but being together for all of those runs, trials, and joys made their careers greater than they otherwise would have been. Each fed off the other and made each other better. It’s the true mark of great players and great teammates to have such a reciprocal thing happen.
Years Played: 1984 – 2003
2x All-NBA 1st Team (1994-’95)
6x All-NBA 2nd Team (1988-’90, 1992-’93, 1996)
3x All-NBA 3rd Team (1991, 1997, 1999)
5x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1989, 1991-’92, 1995, 1997)
10x All-Star (1989-’97, 2000)
All-Star Game MVP (1993)
NBA - 1504 Games
13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 51.5% FG, 38.4% 3PT, 82.6% FT
9x APG Leader (1988-’96), 2x SPG Leader (1989, 1992)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1984-85 through 2002-03 season)
1st Assists, 2nd APG
1st Steals, 4th SPG
15th FGs Made, 16th FG%
9th FTs Made, 26th FT%
22nd 3PTs Made, 11th 3PT%
1st Games Played, 2nd Games Played