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NBA / Sep 11, 2009 / 11:59 am

John Stockton Is The Best Point Guard Of All Time

John Stockton

Today, John Stockton receives the highest individual honor a basketball player can get: an induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame. As a Jazz fan growing up, I couldn’t be happier. For 19 years, Stockton gave our boring and bland town something to get excited about. He was a huge reason why the Jazz were a playoff team every year and why they made it to the finals twice. It is almost impossible to be from our neck of the woods and not give him Pope-type status.

To myself and Utah fans, he is the greatest point guard of all time. But even if I wasn’t biased and was a kid that grew up in Florida, I would still say Stockton is deserving of being labeled the best floor general in NBA history. While a lot of you I’m sure will disagree and argue that Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas and even Steve Nash are worthy of this subjective title, but I think that Stockton’s body of work puts him over those guys.

In nearly two decades of running the point for Utah, Stockton averaged a double-double with 13.1 ppg and 10.5 assists. Think how impressive those career averages are considering he played sparingly his first few seasons and was limited to around 30 minutes per game his last five or six seasons. Stockton was one of the most efficient players of all time with his 52 percent career field goal percentage, 38.4 percent three-point percentage and 82.6 percent free throw percentage.

On the offensive end, nobody was a better passer. Stockton is the all-time leader in assists with 15,806 – that’s over 5,000 more than Magic’s total of 10,141. In the 1989-’90 season, he averaged 14.5 assists, which was the highest single season total in league history. Stockton was a 10-time all-star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time All NBA first team and was voted one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of all time in 1997.

As great of a player Magic was, he wasn’t a good defender like Stockton was. Stockton is the game’s all-time leader in steals and was voted on the All Defensive second team six times. Whether you thought he was dirty or not, he was aggressive on the defensive end and didn’t back down from anybody, even though he was just 6-1 and 175 pounds.

The one knock on Stockton was he never won a championship. Isiah won two and Magic won five, but that doesn’t mean they could do what Stockton did year after year. Stockton made the playoffs in all of his 19 seasons and reached the finals twice only to lose both times to the MJ’s Bulls – which arguably was the best team of all time.

Stockton’s longevity and consistency is something that no other point guard can match. He was not 6-9, didn’t have much athletic ability or the same caliber supporting casts as Magic and Isiah, but he found a way to get it done. Nobody could do and will ever do what John Stockton accomplished.

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  • aj

    Absolutely true!

  • Sanssasin

    this is truth

  • Celts Fan

    He’s top 5, but I’d take Magic and Oscar over him no question and probably Isiah too.

  • fred a stair

    If Stockton played now he would have won at least 4 or 5

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    I think John is a very close second to Magic. You can’t argue with Magic’s ability to play all 5 positions and his rings.

  • srb

    when you posted something the other day you caused me to spend 40 minutes watching youtube videos of him. you forget how fun it was to watch him and malone torture other teams.

  • fred a stair

    my bad 4 or 5 champioships

  • fred a stair

    my bad 4 or 5 rings

  • bobby s

    1. magic
    2. stockton
    3. thomas

  • Dave

    If I could draft the player now knowing what their careers would be I’d take Stockton first and his 19 years no question. Ten years of Magic would be awesome too, and Isaiah had sick talent and tenacity, but to build a team and franchise around it would be Stockton #1, Magic #2, Gary Payton #3, Ike #4.

    Now if I had to pick the pg for a single game that may be a different story.

  • dwight coward

    I’m not even going to bother arguing Magic is better than Stockton, thats just obvious – but how can anyone possibly rate Stockton above Oscar?!?

    We all know the assist record is a “political” one. the Utah hometown scorekeeper helped him along, and the stats show it – way more assists pg in Utah than on the road.

  • control

    I’d take Stockton over Isiah anyday…shit, didn’t the Fresh Prince beat Isiah 1on1 or something? Can’t take a guy who got beat by Fresh Prince over a guy like Stockton.

    I’d take Stockton in a street fight over Isiah too. Hell, the only thing Stockton doesn’t do better than Isiah is ruin basketball teams and sexually harass women.

    I’d take Magic over Stockton for best PG though…

  • http://smack! JOB33

    Did GN say “pope-like status”? Those crazy mormons..i joke i joke

    But as much as I detested Malone, it was the opposite with Stockton. I loved watching him play, even if I was rooting against him in those finals.

  • Diego

    Magic over Stockton, unless you penalize Magic for being 6-9 (which Dime apparently does in last paragraph of article) and/or give Stockton points for longevity (which is alright).

    Hell, Jabbar is injured in the finals, Magic (what, a rookie?) takes over at center, and puts in, like–42 pts at center, or something like that? Unbelievable.

  • ab_40

    no he isn’t and if the whole HIV thing didn’t happen to magic he would’ve played till 96 or 97 to see how far he could take it. too bad and I’d take career stats of 20 and 11 and a matchup problem for almost any pg he stood against over john stockton any 7 days of the week

  • christopher

    wait a minute…not to knock stockton at all, but he played what 8(!) more years than Magic did? he is #1 in assists all time due to his high level of play and his longevity but remember Magic only played 10 or 11 years! and while the writer applauds stock for making the playoffs 19 straight years-Magic played in 9 finals in those 10 tens years and won 5 titles…great guard-maybe the greatest who never won a title-but better than Magic?!-thats a reach–sorry for the paragraph but this touched a nerve…

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    @ Gerald

    say it aint so? you are def on the nutt sack saying john stockton is the greatest point guard of all time. I DONT THINK SO!

    Ervin Magic Johnson is def ahead of him and Oscar Robertson is def ahead of him too.
    And pound-for-pound, you would even have to rank Isiah Thomas ahead of John Stockton

    Sorry homie…but john stockton is NOT the greatest point guard of all time

  • that guy

    @heckler PAUSE!!

  • http://nba.com gibson

    nobody with any sense should be arguing Steve Nash in the greatest PG stakes

  • Brado

    I say this about a lot of players, but Stockton is one of those guys that would have had several rings had he played in a bigger market. Swith Magic and Stockton and odds are Stockton would retire with more rings than Magic.

    Magic was a better basketball player, but Stockton was a better point guard.

    Well deserved article.

  • money

    nope. magic. stockton is up there, but magic no doubt.

  • flavur

    If I need a pg for a team I’ll take Stockton in a heartbeat but to build a team around I would build it around Magic Johnson just because he was the better player for sure.

  • BR

    @ 20

    “Magic was a better basketball player, but Stockton was a better point guard.”

    YES.

  • KenAdams

    If Magic came into the NBA today, he wouldn’t be a PG. It would be like Lebron a SF/PF guy that can handle the ball. Magic was a great basketball player, but Stockton was the best true PG.

  • sh!tfaced

    magic, oscar, stockton

  • johnsacrimoni

    How is this even a debate about Magic vs. Stockton? I’m sorry, Stockton was a great player but Magic was a top 3 player of all time. Magic won 3 MVPs and played in 9 finals, winning 5 of them. He played 12 seasons, not 10, and 32 games in ’96 as a pf. Magic averaged 19.5 pts, 11.2 assists, 7.2 rpg, 1.9 steals and shot 52% from the field and 85% from the line for his career. All-NBA first team nine times and 2nd team once. Top 3 in MVP voting 9 times!
    As for Stockton, he did make the playoffs every year he was in the league (as did Magic), playing in 2 finals, losing both. Zero MVPs. Career averages of 13.1 ppg, 10.5 apg, 2.7 rpg, 2.2 steals, 52% from the field, 83% from the line. 2 first team All-NBA, 6 second team, 3 third team. He also made the 2nd team All-Defensive 5 times. He holds the career assists and steals record after playing 19 seasons. Top 5 in MVP voting 0 times. Top 10 in MVP voting 3 times. This shouldn’t even be a debate.

  • Drink the Haterade

    While all those other pg you guys mention had other things, I think the story is to tell that Stock was the best PURE PG ever. Now that makes sense. Nobody could run a half court (pick and Roll)and fastbreak as good as him. Yes Magic was Showtime, but that was all fast break, Magic couldn’t set up the offense the way Stock could.

  • dagwaller

    Greatest PG of all time? I’d agree. Magic Johnson might have been a better PLAYER, but as far as just being a point guard goes, I’d take Stockton.

  • http://allthatjazzbasketball.blogspot.com/ Amar

    I’m a rational empiricist, which means I have to look at stats. Defensive stats are shady, so I favor offensive stats. (and we’ve all recently read about how inflated those could be, like that former vanc griz guy who gave hakeem a triple double, or van ex 19 assists or something crazy like that)

    That said, as a Jazz fan (homer), I have to say that per game, Stockton was on the best offensive PG to play. He might have been, had he shot the ball a bit more frequently.

    By my calculations, Magic’s GO Rating (again, a complex stat I made up that involves a lot of math — and there’s no space to write about it here) was 138.748.

    Stockton’s was 111.897

    Numerically that’s about the same distance as Gerald Wallace (44.934) to Scottie Pippen (71.431). We know Pip is way better — statistically then we must also agree that on any given day, Magic was that much better than Stockton.

    For those who care here is the PG rundown:

    Magic 138.7
    KJ 116.8
    Stock 111.8
    Zeke 107.8
    Stephon 101.2
    Nash 93.8
    The Glove 88.8
    Tony Parker 82.5
    Billups 78.9
    Fat Lever 77.4
    Tery Porter 66.8
    Sleepy 62.4
    Brevin Knight 48.4

    Some younger guys have heavily skewed data (few years in the L), so I omitted guys like CP, DWill, devin harris, d rose, etc

    Some older guys have heavily skewed data because they played in years were things like turn overs and three pointers were recorded mid-way through their careers. (you can imagine how a metric eval that factors turn overs would be skewed in this way, if a player only had turn overs recorded for his last 3 seasons) This means that guys like Walt Fraizer, Nate Archibald, Gus Williams, and so forth were omitted. (Their numbers were all over the place, like Fraizer gets a GO Rating of 464.6 when Jordan’s is only 191.8)

    Some guys played in eras where there were not enough stats kept at all to give any answer (let alone a wrong one), this includes guys like Oscar, Cousey and West. (not a true PG, but he handed the rock a lot).

    Some guys I have not gotten to inputting yet, like Tim Hardaway, or Mark Price, or Rod Strickland, and so forth.

  • johnjohn75

    All of you guys saying Magic wasn’t a true PG must be young.

  • loons

    Amar, any list of top PGs that omits Jason Kidd can’t be counted. Sorry.

  • Dennis Castro

    johnjohn, that’s what I’m sayin. C’mon, how does he avg 11 assists by not being a pure PG? You mean to tell me that all his assists came on the fastbreak, and none came in the halfcourt offense?

    This is not a discussion. Magic and Oscar are well above everybody else at the PG position.

    And I’m sorry, but if the PG is the QB of the team, then championships have to be held in higher regard than other positions, since the PG is the initiator of the offense and LEADS the team, if they are a TRUE PG like some of yall say.

    Magic – 5
    Oscar – 1
    Stockton – 0

    Stockton was great, no doubt, but he’s in the 2nd tier of all time PG’s after those 2.

  • Sanssasin

    after hearing all these arguments i’m still saying stockton was the best pg.

    a couple of y’all (and espn) mention that magic would have the all-time assists record if he didn’t retire with hiv. but y’all are forgetting that magic retired was at the end of his prime. his numbers were great in his prime, but what would they have been had he gone another 5 years?

    stockton didn’t even start ’til his 4th season. magic started out averaging about 36 minutes per game whereas stockton didn’t average that ’til about his 4th season. stockton averaged an assist every 3 min 1.3 sec of play and a turnover every 11 min 15.3 sec of play. magic averaged an assist every 3 min 16.7 sec of play and a turnover every 9 min 28.9 sec of play.

    stockton’s numbers include when he was in the decline era ’til he was 41, magic’s numbers don’t include his decline years (except for his 32 game comeback in ’95-’96) and goes ’til he was about 31.

    so take from that what you will, but you have to acknowledge that the dude was a beast, just never got a ring. which is the only knock you can throw on stockton.

  • dwight coward

    “If Magic came into the NBA today, he wouldn’t be a PG.”

    thats crazy. you youngsters need to lay off the kush.

  • dh

    I think chris paul could have just as impressive career. He may finish top 5 in assists & steals.

  • doc

    Bullshit.He couldnt beat Magic,and he couldnt beat Zeke.We aint gonna get it fucked up.He went to chips when they left.Longevity is impressive but it dont mean you the greatest.If you take Stocks 19 years of playoff runs over Zekes 2 titles in 12-13 or magic’s 5 chips in 12 you are a fool.Magic is a better player,but Stock is the better point…WTF?Give me Magic and we gonna run down yall fucking throat.1.Magic2.Zeke3.Stock4.GP

  • http://hoopsfreak.com The Hoops Freak

    Magic.

    There isn’t even a discussion.

    Stockton – 0 championships 2 Finals
    Magic – 5 championships 10 Finals

  • Sanssasin

    shit doc, you lost all credibility listing zeke as #2.

    lmao

    you can go with magic, but hell as soon as you drop the zeke card you lose all basketball credibility.

  • hooper5013

    Anyone who writes an article about best PG’s and includes Nash and Omits Jason Kidd automatically loses some points and the value of their opinion lessens. With that said…Stockton Magic Oscar Kidd are the only PG’s in history that can be consider the best ever. With that being said. Magic Kidd and Stockton are PURE point guards and if you think otherwise you’re a moron…Oscar Robinson I never saw, but a 30ppg scorers are usually pure PG’s (what up AI and Agent Zero) Article was well written though and you make valid points, but those 4 I just wouldn’t care which one I got because I would be in position to win either way!

  • A-Lid

    John Stockton is the best PG of all time no doubt.

  • http://dime Phil McCracken

    If one more person says you have to win championships to be great , I will puke. Earvin Johnson was the luckiest playereve,r because he played for L.A. If he had not been promoted as a savior we would not been subjected to this endless drivel about “Magic”. The only player in the league slower than Bird and these two are the face of the leaguefor ten years? Gullability, naivete,ignorance, hucksterism, and never ending promotion equals Earvin Johnson the fraud.

  • http://uoregon.edu sans

    He was straight dirt and gravel, elbows sticking thighs whenever he got a chance. Not hating, just stating. Definite HOFer–but I’d take Karl Malone over Joe Dumars any day of the week. Magic was a better baller, and his career was cut short 4-6 years by AIDS so his stats are below Dirty Johns. Stockton couldn’t have done it alone either.

    Great Great player–looks like a choirboy, fought like the devil.

    And who would he win 4-5 chips with? Duncan?

  • John

    Magic is the greatest player that ever lived. So to say that Stocton is the best point guard makes me laugh. Stockton never won one thing so he isnt in the top 10 point guards. Stats mean nothing. If that was the case Magic could have averaged close to 30 14 and 10 per night. But it is about wining.

  • Jon

    All this talk about he doesn’t hav any rings is garbage oscar won 1 ring and that was with arguable this best player so don’t count that bullshit second in todays game magic probably wouldnt have played point because who can he stay in front in todays game cp tony parker d will devin harris or derrick rose and john stockton got 2 play against 2 of the top points of 2day in j-kidd and steve nash and played well not a stockton or jazz fan but give props where props are do he is the best pure point magic is the better player by far though

  • johnsacrimoni

    Why is Magic not a “pure” point guard? Because he was able to play other positions? This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Magic played the point 99% of the time and averaged 11+ assists per game over his career. The reason Oscar is not considered a “pure” point is because he played both backcourt positions. Big difference. Is Jason Kidd not a “pure” point guard because he has the size to guard 2’s? No, that’s just smart coaching; he’s got a big strong body and diminished quickness due to his age and past injuries. So he guards 2’s.

  • doc

    What the hell is a pure point guard.A short white dude who pass.Because stock aint fucking with magic no way you put it.2sansass-U dont know the game get ya history right.Zeke bust stock and whoever else stepped in his way ass including Mike.

  • doc

    Magic was lucky?Yeah because they were stacking up all them chips before he got there.Some of you cats are ignorant to this game I was raised on and still play to this day for a nice check every once in a while.Chips mean EVERYTHING.If you the SUPERSTAR of the team and didnt win you were NOT the greatest.Its not POSSIBLE.People cant whip your ass for years and then you claim to be the greatest..Stock better than Magic or Zeke.Child Please!

  • doc

    And he had the 2nd best PF ever.i’ll give him 3rd.I aint with that Big O shit I aint a beleiver of the 60’s,but I’ll put him ahead of GP,my fourth best PG.And i’ll round it out with Ason Kidd.They was all bad boys,but Magic on his own plateau and so is Zeke.Stockon down there battling with the other ringless greats.Only thing is he had the 2nd best PF ever in my book.

  • doc

    And yeah GP got a ring but he wasnt a star no more so its not the same.

  • jon

    being white has nothin 2 do with it jason jidd is cause if u take him off the ball on offense how is he going to effective he cant shoot chris paul is a pure point chauncey billups is a pure point guard magic is not a pure point b cause like somebody said he played center in the championship game meaning he didnt need the ball 2 b great player mark jackson should b included as 1 of the greats so magic is a better player but put him at da 2 he would b good he would hav ben good at the 3 4 and a decent 5 zeke is a top 1 of all time but he is not better then stockton

  • johnsacrimoni

    @jon,
    your argument is weak.

  • jtt-esq

    Magic is #1 by far. For the question of who could Magic stay in fron of today because of the speed, Magic played against the following players that were not slow on a nightly basis. Isaiah, Gus Williams, Kevin Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, Stockton, MichaelRay Richardson, Terry Porter, “Fast” Eddie Johnson, Larry Drew, Allan LeavellMark Price, Norm Nixon and Fat Lever. As for those ragging on Isaiah, Isaiah used to take over games, something Stockton could not do. In head to head match ups Isaiah used to destroy Stockton. In 84-85 Isaiah led the league in assists while averaging 21.2 ppg. (Stockton never averaged 20ppg for a season in his entire career.) As for supporting casts, for the majority of his career Stockton had a great shooting guard, (D. Griffith, J. Malone, J. Hornacheck) the best low post scoring forward in the game,(the Mailman)a complimentary rebounding and scoring forward on the other wing (Thurl Bailey, Donyell Marshall) a shot blocking rebounding center (Eaton) and a half court ofensive system designed to exploit the talents of a point guard.(Ricky Green piled up the assists in the same system before Stockton.) He should have impressive assists totals

  • don cannon

    i was readin the comment and it seems like doc and jtt-esq are the only ppl who know bout basketball

  • http://allthatjazzbasketball.blogspot.com/ Amar

    @jtt-esq uh . . . i love you dropping names, but did you know that norm nixon was a laker who essentially shut it down when being traded from them when Magic joined the league? or that “Fast” Eddie Johnson was a wing player who was called “Fast” because of his shot release — and not because he was like Usain Bolt?

    Also stockton did take over games — maybe you should rewatch that game 6 vs. houston — the entire 4th quarter is on youtube. stockton did everything in that close out game (on the road), but all people remember is his last shot.

    Does that make Stockton better than Zeke? They were different players with different mentalities. Both were on strong playoff teams. Isiah and his pistons peaked high and burned away quickly. John’s Jazz never got that high, but were more consistent teams for a way longer period.

    I don’t know why people are arguing about this . . . it’s:

    1. Magic
    2. Nate /Oscar
    4. Isiah / John

    That’s top 5.

    Cousy is 6. Kidd / Nash / Payton are all good, but not quite as good as the rest of those guys. (Kidd’s triple doubles are nice, but he’s a highly inefficient shooter . . .)

  • http://allthatjazzbasketball.blogspot.com/ Amar

    Larry Drew was also a laker . . . michael adams was faster than michael ray, btw, derek harper was a major opponent of magic, but also was not faster than him, etc.

    Magic played against a lot of solid PGs — no doubt. And he owned most all of them nightly. Let’s not forget that a young, non-HIV+ magic was one of the more fit guys in the L. sure, he wasn’t as fast as those little water bugs, but he wasn’t slow either.

  • Jon

    2jonsacrimini 1st off u must not b a real player jus an opionist b-cause u dont hav 2 throw facts out der i talk 2 men old enuff 2 b my dad dat played wen jon stockton was a rookie and real player would know dat wat i said holds wait jus because aint kno talk about stats or rings in it doesbt make it weak

  • Spencers Mom

    Magic, Stock, O are the three names that keep popping up with Zeke slightly trailing. Frankly I dont think any of the three are wrong because they were all in different circumstances. ‘O’ was assaulted every game when fouls were ‘no blood no foul’ era. He had immense stats across the board but virtually no support until Skyhook. Magic had some outstanding team mates that anyone would drool over and he got the rings as well as his own game. Stockton to Malone, but really no one else. There are very few individuals that stand above the rest like Air does. My only point is that all three deserve our respect for what they did on the wood.

  • Mellmeister

    @jon
    Stupid ass comment of yours doesn’t make sense, infact you shouldn’t be writing anything… ‘coz YOU DON’T KNOW CRAP.

    Stats or whateva, greatest PG, Earvin “Magic” Johnson…
    Individual Accolades is one plus Team Success in playing PG for his respective team is already a statement…
    I am not a laker fan but I was a Fan of his game. Some of y’all maybe right in saying that He can be effective in any position he played… but what’s being discussed was being a pure point, he may have played center, he may have played power forward, even small forward or shooting guard, but he flourished as a Point Guard, and is the BEST on that position.

    Stockton was Great and is 3rd on my list, because Jason Kidd comes in mind at 2nd. but isiah? he was a PG on their roster, but wasn’t really a true PG, he’s more of an allen iverson type player, score first. he could’ve played 2 for crying out loud.

    The discussion about Magic playing other positions, and could’ve been like LBJ, who could post as a SF… yeah that’s true, but he chose to play point, ‘coz he’s good at it and won games by means of getting his team involved. not that i’m sayin’ LBJ doesn’t but he also tried playing point back in his rookie season ‘coz he said that fits him… but what happened? he shifted to the position where he fits the most (SF). and he chose it, same as what magic did. so don’t blame him for being 6’9… blame yo momma ‘coz of ya mentality.

    i’m out like isiah from NY.

  • http://www.utjazzblog.com Clint

    Stockton was amazing, and I believe he was the best PG ever. I don’t pretend to be unbiased as a huge Jazz fan and former season ticket holder, but there will never be another player like Stock. I wrote an article with my thoughts on the subject in my Utah Jazz Blog.

  • Geoff

    No way. In fact, his lack of a Championship is a huge stain on his legacy. Thomas had a better cast? How?! He had Malone who is at worst the 2nd best PF of all time. He never averaged 20-10 in a season, and steals alone do not make you a good defender. Don’t get me wrong, he is my favourite player for his approach to the game and his conduct. He played at the same time as Isiah. His longevity is something to be admired, but Magic got cut short due to AIDS, not lack of skill.
    My Top PGs
    1. Johnson
    2. Robertson
    3. Thomas
    4. Stockton
    5. Frazier

  • AVeezie

    hey Id take Stock on my team anyday

  • Matt

    @mellmeister;

    How can you put J-Kidd at second? I’m just curios to your reasoning behind that.

  • Caderade

    Sure, it’s true that Magic’s career was cut short by HIV, but you also have to take into account that Stockton played a full four years in college and came off the bench his first three years in Utah. If he had been starting in the NBA that whole time, he could have easily broken 20,000 career assists. Bottom line, Magic was a better player, Stockton was the best PG of all time.

  • Gary

    The argument is 100% ridiculous. So does point guard just mean passing? If that is the case and if both would have played the same amount of years then Magic would still have more or at the worst be extremely close. Magic also attempted 4 more shots a game than Stockton, and yet Magic still had a higher assist per game average than Stockton. So Magic averaged more per game on a no question more talented team but that also makes it harder to score on that type of team and Magic averaged almost 6 points more per game and was clearly the better rebounder.
    Stock has the edge in steels but not by much Stock 2.1 magic 1.9. Not bad for a guy 6’8. Magic’s playoff per game stats compared to regular season were better while Stockton’s overall stats actually diminished a bit. Magic had a better free throw % and field goal %.

    If the stats don’t say then you have to go to rings. Magic 5, Stockton 0.

  • Dblack

    I’m sorry but for anyone who thinks magic is above Stockton as the best POINT GUARD of all time has to realize that magic isn’t even in the conversation because he is not a TRUE POINT GUARD magic by basketball definiton is a “swingman” if your going to say magic is the best you would then have to consider LeBron just because he averages high assists really come one readers get real Stockton is the best statistically point guard of all time and a true point guard at that I’m Seventeen and could rationally figure this one out easier than most of you