10 Greatest Moments of John Stockton's Career with the Utah Jazz

Rich ByingtonContributor INovember 16, 2011

10 Greatest Moments of John Stockton's Career with the Utah Jazz

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    By the time Rocky III hit theaters back in the early '80s, the Italian Stallion was loved so much for his accomplishments that the City of Brotherly Love erected a statue in his honor. The Utah Jazz have done no less for the incomparable John Stockton, as well as named a street in front of the Energy Solutions Arena after him.

    The consummate professional, who was gracious in victory and defeat, Stockton avoided the spotlight like few others and yet shined in it as well as any who played the game.

    Typical of his unassuming nature, at the end of his career rather than hold the typical news conference, he announced his retirement with a released statement where he stated, "I think I'm finished."

    It's probably an exaggeration to suggest there isn't enough salt in the Great Salt Lake to equal the list of great moments and accomplishments in the Hall of Fame career that spanned nearly 20 seasons of the greatest point guard to ever set foot on a basketball court, but it sure feels that way when mentally going through that list.

    For now, I'll try to narrow it down to ten while acknowledging that there will surely be many omitted but none forgotten.

Stockton Nails the 3 That Sends the Jazz to Their 1st NBA Finals Appearance

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    No one single moment better defines the Utah Jazz than the shot heard round the world.

    With less than three full seconds on the clock, John Stockton drained a three pointer in a tie game with the Houston Rockets that rocketed the Jazz to their first ever NBA Finals.

    It was fitting that the quintessential point guard made that shot: no one deserved it more and no one celebrated as jubilantly as John Stockton.

    The image of Stockton leaping from the floor and pumping his fist is forever indelibly embedded in the memories of Jazz and NBA fans alike.

    Besides that great shot, Stockton got the Jazz in position by scoring the team's final nine points.

Hall of Fame Induction

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    The 2009 NBA Hall of Fame class included two of the grittiest and toughest players to ever put on a uniform. How appropriate that both John Stockton and the only coach he ever played for were inducted in the same class.

    Fittingly, the ever-humble John Stockton spent the entire length of his induction speech giving credit to anyone and everyone who ever influenced his life and his love for the game of basketball, with an occasional endearing splash of wit and humor.

    This was a moment that was easy to see very early in Stockton's NBA tenure would come as soon as he was eligible after completing his illustrious career.

Stockton Breaks the All Time Assists Record

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    Against the Denver Nuggets in typical Jazz fashion, Stockton's record-breaking 9,922nd assist went to Karl Malone. He would add an additional 5,884 before he retired, to push the untouchable record to 15,806.

    On his way to the Everest of his achievements, Stockton recorded 1,000 assists seven times and managed five of the top six highest assists totals in a season of all time.

    He set an NBA record, averaging 14.5 during the 190-91 year while achieving the incredible feat of 20 or more assists 38 times in his career. He tallied ten straight seasons of ten or more per game and led the league nine of those ten seasons.

    Stockton finished with a career average of 10.5.

Stockton Breaks the All Time Steals Record

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    John Stockton has always been known more for his passing prowess than his defense, but this aspect of his game was underrated and disrespected at the peril of many opponents. Five times he was named to the NBA's Second Team All-Defensive Team. 

    In a 112-98 win over the Celtics during the 1995-96 season—the same year he broke Magic Johnson's career assists record and embarked on his quest for leaving that mark in another galaxy—Stockton surpassed Maurice Cheeks' career steals record with his 2,311th steal. He would pull off another 954 before retiring.

    He finished his career with 3,265 thefts and led the NBA in two different seasons, averaging over three steals a game both years. He would end his career averaging 2.2 a game.

Game 4 of the 1997 NBA Finals vs. the Chicago Bulls

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    The Jazz crowd was so loud, Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson wore earplugs.

    A tight game with many lead changes throughout, the Jazz led by five after the first quarter but trailed by five at halftime. The Bulls held a 71-66 lead late in the game, but John Stockton made a momentum-shifting three at the top of the key to cut the deficit to 71-69. Michael Jordan made a jumper to give the Bulls a 73-69 lead, but the Bulls would not score again.

    The Jazz pulled to within one when Stockton stole the ball from Jordan and made two free throws at the other end. On the next possession, John Stockton grabbed a rebound from a Jordan miss and tossed a length-of-the-court football throw to Karl Malone for a layup with 44.5 seconds left that put Utah in front for good, 74-73. 

    Stockton's exuberance was reminiscent of the Rockets game six finish.

    After some Bulls misses, Karl Malone made two free throws with 17 seconds left to put the Jazz up by three. On the next possession, Michael Jordan's potential game-tying 3 with less than 10 seconds left rattled out; Stockton grabbed the rebound and threw another full court pass to Bryon Russell, who escaped the intentional foul and dunked with half a second left to seal the victory; the hometown crowd erupted.

    The Jazz's 12-2 run tied the series at two games apiece.

    John Stockton finished the game with 17 points, 12 assists, three rebounds and four steals.

Stockton Dishes out Career Highs of 27 and 28 Assists

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    On December 19, 1989, Stockton had 27 assists vs. the New York Knicks in a losing effort. A little more than a year later, he topped that on January 15, 1991 by racking up 28 against the rival San Antonio Spurs.

    The 28 assists is tied with two other players for the third most ever in a game, just two short of the record of 30 set by Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic in December 1990, while the 27 stands tied at number four.

24 Playoff Assists Record vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    On May 17, 1988, John Stockton dished out 24 assists in the fifth game of the second round of a Western Conference playoff series vs the Lakers.

    In addition to the record tying 24 assists, Stockton also recorded 23 points, three rebounds and five steals but the Jazz lost the game to the Lakers by a score of 111-109.

    The Lakers also won that playoff series in seven games, and would go on to defeat the Detroit Pistons in seven games to capture the championship that season.

    The 24 assists tied Magic Johnson's 24-assist effort in the second game of the Western Conference Finals vs. the Phoenix Suns in the 1983-84 season.

Voted as One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History

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    The 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association History (also referred to as NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team or NBA's Top 50) were chosen in 1996 to honor the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Basketball Association.

    These fifty players were selected through a vote by a panel of media members, former players and coaches, and current and former general managers.

    John Stockton was selected as one of these players on a list where every single player has been inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame except Shaquille O'Neal.

Played and Started All 82 Games at Age 41

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    John Stockton's durability and toughness as a player is legendary. He has played the most seasons and games with one team, and the third most games ever behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parrish.

    During his 19 year career, he missed only 22 games—18 coming in one season.

    He achieved a double-double average over the course of a staggering 1,504 games and played in all 82 games in 16 of his 19 seasons.

    Still, the most impressive number of longevity and durability was the 82 starts he logged at the ripe old age of 41, a season which saw him produce a respectable 10.8 points a game, 7.7 assists and nearly two steals.

    John Stockton's consistency and dependability was never more visible than the high level of excellence he displayed at age of 41.

Co-MVP of 1993 All Star Game in Salt Lake City

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    Stockton scored nine points and dished out 15 assists in the annual classic in 1993 while playing in front the hometown Jazz fans at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.

    He and partner-in-crime Karl Malone shared MVP honors for their performances; fitting that both players were honored and recognized for their prowess on the basketball court in front of the home town among the greatest the game had to offer that season.

Conclusion

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    John Stockton's career high in points was 34, moderate by the standards of the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, or even his prolific teammate Karl Malone, yet you get the feeling that every point Stockton ever scored was more significant than that of most players because his points always seemed to come at the most critical times.

    Stockton was an excellent shooter and Jazz fans would've loved to see him do more of that, but it wasn't his game; his game was to be the Court Marshall, and he spent 19 years dishing out NBA justice better than any player who ever played the game.