With the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony taking place today, we wanted to give the true diehard fans of the Dime Magazine community an opportunity to write about the 2009 class. Dime reader Dave Harrison, one of the most insightful Jazz fans we know, and who covered the team for a Salt Lake City TV station in the ’90s, shares his thoughts on John Stockton:
*** *** ***
There’s more than one reason the legendary John Wooden never hesitated to say “John Stockton” when he was asked who his favorite player was.
I grew up on John Stockton; he was drafted when I was a 9th grader. Before that, I was one of the kids who used the old, “I’ve already been in the arena but I forgot to get my ticket from my mom, will you come with me to my seat so I can get it for you?” ploy with the ticket taker to get into the Salt Palace. So when Utah picked Stockton in the first round, I thought he’d never hold Rickey Green‘s jock. I wasn’t the only one that was wrong.
We could make a list as long as your arm of his achievements, but there’s much more than records and accolades that make up Stock’s impact and greatness.
Always, always, always have respect for your coach.
From day one of his career to his last possession against Sacramento (still owe those Kings fans props for that standing O), Stockton always looked to Jerry Sloan for the play. It’s not like he didn’t know exactly what the play would be, he just knew Jerry was the coach and he was the player, and Jerry was the boss, period.
Setting a good, effective pick is everybody’s job.
Of all the things Sloan said Stockton did better than anyone else, it was setting picks down low against guys 100 pounds heavier and never backing down that stands out the most. Weaker players and coaches looking for an angle called him dirty. Whatever. He just played the game like it was supposed to be played, no phantom screens, no weak cuts to the basket, no “ole” defense — just good, hard, clean basketball, every possession of every game.
Loyalty to your team, coach, and teammates, and not complaining about the deal you cut is the way to handle business.
In the long run, the goodwill he built and character he portrayed will continue to pay off for him for as many years after basketball as he wants. I wonder how Carlos Boozer will cash in his goodwill fortune when he retires?
You win games at practice.
Between Mailman and Stock, the Jazz practices were never short on competition and hard work. A story in the Salt Lake Tribune this week quoted Sloan saying in all of the years Stockton played, he only ever lost at wind sprints once, and that was because he was sick. He won his last wind-sprint race at 41, and had a wind-sprint record of something like 2,197-1. That’s 26,363 freaking guys he beat at wind sprints in his career. Calbert Cheaney probably had a t-shirt made celebrating the only win over Stock.
Don’t make excuses.
So what if there’s an injury or you’re playing Michael Jordan; if you lose a game, it’s your own team’s fault. No weak blaming of the officials, or the mean, scary, loud arena with motorcycle exhaust, or the bad hotel food.
And when the national anthem is playing, put your hand on your heart, pay attention, and give due respect to those who granted you the right to make millions playing basketball.
There is only one stat that ever mattered to Stock: W’s. Stockton’s first words to a new teammate were “Where do you like to catch the ball?” Stockton didn’t wear tats or jewelry, instead he wore one of his three faded red Garanimals polo shirts that were too small after every game for 19 years. Frankly, he didn’t care what anyone but the owner, the coach, and his family thought of him.
Greatest point guard of all time? When you add up the things that really matter, it’s pretty hard to argue against Stock.
— Dave Harrison