Monday, November 22, 2004

Stock rising to the roof

Tonight the Utah Jazz will hoist John Stockton's #12 jersey to the rafters at the Delta Center. That means, not only will we never see a player who could fill his shoes, or his void in the league, but certainly not his jersey. It is a bit cliche to say he was one of a kind, but there isn't much other way to put it.

Stockton is loved by most, and is often labeled as 'Old School' and remembered for the length of his shorts. I guess he was 'old school', but did it in a way that was un-matched by any other. Perhaps he should be titled Dean or President of the Old School. And thinking about Old School, I think you could argue that many of the new generation of players should be called "No School". Players of today skip college, skip fundamentals, and basically skip the idea that playing with respect for the game is a core value. Mr. Old School is the NBA's all-time assist and steals leader. With regard to the length of his shorts, like any other aspect of fashion, if you wait long enough those too will come back 'in'.

This ceremony tonight isn't really for John. I think he cares, but doesn't seek this type of attention. This ceremony is for the fans, giving us another reason to warrant his appearance back in Arena, and a chance to remember him (and remember those great teams). Perhaps next year we'll get him back into the spotlight long enough to unveil the Stockton and Malone statues outside the Delta Center. Then in a few years we'll host a Hall of Fame inductee celebration. After that we are just going to have to wait for one of his sons to get into the NBA.

A few things of interest you may not know about John:
  • The Jazz trainer said at one point his body fat was 2.4% and his resting heart rate was 36.
  • UCLA legend coach John Wooden said John was the one player he'd pay to watch.
  • John was cut the first time he tried out for the US Olympic team. In addition, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley were cut during the same tryout. He later went on to star on the Dream Team and collect a gold medal. That was in the days when the best players wanted to play in the Olympics.
  • Not only is John the all time assist leader at 15,806, but he has 5,463 more than 2nd place. No active NBA player has more than 8,100. Of the 9 times that an NBA player has posted 1,000 assists in a season, John has 7.
  • No Days off. John played in 1,504 of 1,526 games in his career, and in 17 seasons he played every game. He obviously played with countless illnesses and sprains, but felt his duty to play. In today's NBA, some guys miss games because they are tired from pushing their own CDs.
  • A security guard once pointed out Karl Malone to John and said, "I don't know if you're a basketball fan, young man, but that's Karl Malone".
  • Once when Stockton was a free agent, he re-signed with the Jazz for less money than he could have received on the open market. When questioned why he turned down the bigger money offer, he replied "How much is enough?" He'd likely get banished from the league today, as the guys think they are entitled to the crazy salaries.
  • John is married to Nada, has six children, and now lives in his hometown of Spokane.

Rather than closing with a flashy, clever line, I'll keep it simple and straight like Stockton himself. Thank you for wearing #12 so well and so often John.

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