Stockton, John Houston

views updated

STOCKTON, John Houston

(b. 26 March 1962 in Spokane, Washington), professional basketball player who leads National Basketball Association (NBA) in career assists and steals.

Stockton was one of four children born to Jack Stockton, a tavern owner, and Clementine Stockton, a homemaker. He attended parochial schools and excelled academically and athletically. Stockton graduated from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane in 1980 and continued his education at Gonzaga University, from which he earned a B. S. in 1984. He married Nada Stepovich on 16 August 1986; they have six children.

Although Stockton was relatively short and slight for a basketball player, at six feet, one inch tall and 175 pounds, he chose basketball over baseball as his sport in college. He averaged 20.9 points and 7.2 assists and shot .577 in 1984, his senior year, and was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the West Coast Conference and chosen for the United Press International All–West Coast First Team. For his college career, Stockton averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 assists. He was invited to the 1984 Olympic tryouts by the designated coach of the U.S. team, Bob Knight of Indiana. Although he was relatively unknown, Stockton competed against All Americans Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Sam Perkins. The coaching staff loved Stockton's knowledge of the game, his selflessness, and his fierce competitive nature. Although he remained until the final cut, he did not make the team. Nonetheless, the Olympic tryouts brought Stockton to the attention of NBA scouts, who saw him as a potential backup point guard.

In 1984 the Utah Jazz of the NBA drafted Stockton in the first round as the sixteenth overall pick. Stockton backed up the starter Rickey Green for most of three seasons before he became the floor leader of the Jazz. For the next fourteen years, he started every game in which he was in uniform. During his years in the NBA, John Stockton has achieved magnificent prominence. In 2000 Stockton and his Jazz teammate Karl Malone were named as two of the greatest players in the history of the league. Through the 2000–2001 season, he held the career record for the number of assists (14,503), as well as records for most assists in a season (1,164 in 1990–1991), and the highest average assists per game (14.5 in 1989–1990). Stockton led the NBA in assists for nine straight seasons between 1988 and 1996. A tenacious defender, he also led the league in steals for the 1988–1989 and 1991–1992 seasons. During 1996 he became the NBA's career leader in steals and garnered 2,976 through the 2000–2001 season.

Stockton has been named an NBA All-Star ten times and shared MVP honors with Karl Malone for the 1993 All-Star game, in which he dished out fifteen assists and had nine points and six rebounds. He has been named to the All-NBA First Team twice, the Second Team six times, and the Third Team three times. His defensive abilities were recognized by his selection to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in five different years. He also played on the U.S. Olympic gold medal–winning "Dream Team" in 1992 and 1996. One of Stockton's career trademarks is durability. He played in all eighty-two games in each season fourteen times through 2000–2001, tying with A. C. Green for that record. He has played more games with one franchise (1,340) than any other player in history and is third in games played entering the 2001–2002 season, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560). With Stockton on the team, the Jazz have been in the playoffs in seventeen consecutive years, an NBA record.

Although Stockton's career playoff statistics are impressive, he has been to the finals only twice (through the 2000–2001 season). In both 1997 and 1998 the Jazz played the Chicago Bulls for the conference title, but in both years the team was defeated in six games, although Stockton averaged nearly nine assists and more than twelve points per game. Stockton has gained the admiration of many basketball legends through his selfless play and determination. In the 2000–2001 season Stockton appeared in all 82 games and shot 50.4 percent from the field. He led all NBA guards in shooting percentage and shot 46 percent from the three-point range. With more than 17,000 points scored (through the 2000–2001 season), a fourth-best all-time career guard shooting percentage, league records in steals and assists, he has left his mark on the NBA. Stockton may be one of the toughest players to ever walk on the hardwood.

For details on Stockton's basketball career see Robert E. Schnakenberg, Teammates: Karl Malone and John Stockton (1998); Roland Lazenby, Stockton to Malone: The Rise of the Utah Jazz (1998); and Michael C. Lewis, To the Brink: Stockton, Malone, and the Utah Jazz's Climb to the Edge of Glory (1998).

F. Ross Peterson