John Stockton (Part 2)

12 Mar 2024

John Stockton (Part 2)

During the 1996–97 season, the Utah Jazz set a franchise record by winning 64 games and led the Western Conference. They once again reached the Western Conference Finals. In a pivotal Game Six of the Conference Finals, Stockton delivered a memorable performance, scoring 25 points, dishing out 13 assists, and making a buzzer-beating, game-winning three-point shot over Charles Barkley to propel the Jazz to their first of two consecutive NBA Finals appearances. This iconic shot by Stockton became known as "The Shot." In Game 3 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Stockton recorded 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 12 assists as the Jazz secured their first Finals win in franchise history. Despite their efforts, the Jazz were ultimately defeated by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games in the Finals.

Despite missing the first 18 games of the 1997–98 season due to a knee injury, Stockton returned to lead the Jazz to another NBA Finals appearance against the Bulls. In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Stockton made a crucial three-pointer with 41.9 seconds left to give the Jazz a lead. However, Michael Jordan responded with two field goals to put the Bulls ahead 87–86. Stockton attempted a three-point shot with 5.2 seconds left, expressing confidence in its success during a post-game interview. Unfortunately for the Jazz, the Bulls emerged victorious once again in six games.
Throughout Stockton's illustrious 19-year NBA career, the Utah Jazz made the playoffs every season, showcasing Stockton's consistency and impact on the team's success.

On May 2, 2003, John Stockton announced his retirement through a released statement, departing from the customary news conference. The Utah Jazz later held a retirement ceremony in his honor, during which Salt Lake City renamed the street in front of the Delta Center, where the Jazz play, to John Stockton Drive. Despite still feeling content with his performance in the game, Stockton cited his growing family as a primary reason for his decision to retire, expressing that being away from home for games was not compensating for the time he was missing with his family.

Stockton's jersey number 12 was retired by the Jazz during a game on November 22, 2004. A statue of Stockton was erected in front of the Delta Center, and a corresponding statue of his longtime teammate Karl Malone was placed nearby on March 23, 2006. These statues stand on a bronze plaque commemorating their achievements together. In recognition of his illustrious career, Stockton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Additionally, he was honored with induction into the Hall of Fame as a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team in 2010.

John Stockton's remarkable career was marked by exceptional durability, as evidenced by his missing only 22 games in his 19-season tenure in the NBA. Remarkably, he missed just four games in his first 13 seasons, with the only major injury occurring in the 1997–98 season when he sat out the first 18 games due to a knee injury. Following his return from this injury, Stockton never missed another game, showcasing his resilience and toughness on the court.
Known for his physical play and tenacity, Stockton earned the nickname "old school" and was widely regarded as one of the toughest players in the league, often compared to his teammate Karl Malone. However, some critics labeled him as a dirty player, with a Sports Illustrated poll in 1997 ranking him as the second dirtiest player in the league behind Dennis Rodman. Despite this reputation, Stockton's career was characterized by consistency and longevity, as he remained a starting NBA player until his retirement at the age of 41.

Throughout his career, Stockton displayed loyalty to the Utah Jazz, turning down lucrative offers from other teams and even negotiating deals that prioritized team needs over personal gain. His partnership with Karl Malone formed one of the most iconic duos in NBA history, with the two players setting a record by appearing in 1,412 regular-season games together. Stockton's exceptional passing ability led to him holding the NBA record for career assists with 15,806, a mark that may stand the test of time. Additionally, he holds the record for career steals with 3,265, showcasing his prowess on the defensive end as well.

Despite his reputation as a pass-first point guard, Stockton was also a capable scorer, boasting a career average of 13.1 points per game and a reliable three-point shot with a 38.4% lifetime average. His contributions to the game were recognized with induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and again in 2010 as a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team. Stockton's impact on the game of basketball is enduring, and his legacy as one of the greatest point guards and passers of all time is firmly cemented in NBA history.


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