Last night I was up late trolling on YouTube, watching videos of Cool Guy and other scholarly topics, when I stumbled upon a gem.
Like most of my late night video binges, I eventually ended up watching highlight reels of old-school NBA players
because I love the way the game used to be played and wish I had been born a decade earlier and spotted a video on the sidebar titled: John Stockton – The Ultimate Point Guard.
Intrigued, I watched the four minute video and, by the time it was over, was unconsciously clicking the next featured video: John Stockton’s Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech.
Full disclosure: When I was young and just starting to get into basketball, I rooted for Michael Jordan and the Bulls over the Jazz all day, every day. MJ was the man and who am I to deny that. But I saw something in those two Stockton videos that made me stop and wonder – will we ever see a player like him again?
Pass-First = Old-Fashioned
In his Hall of Fame Speech, Stockton claimed he was never the best on his team. To sum it up, he was a criminally underrated player overshadowed by louder personalities around the league and an extra-large Mailman. That’s not to say Stockton was a better player than Magic, MJ or Malone; this isn’t about making those comparisons.
The Pasty Gangsta was the point guard that Jim Naismith would have picked to lead his team of prototypical players. He was the ultimate pass-first guard, a player who didn’t post gaudy scoring statistics because he hardly took more than 15 shots a game. Instead, he ran the offense with the goal of giving the ball to whoever had the best scoring opportunity. He gained the reputation as a hard-nosed and scrappy defender, known for his uncanny ability to pick off passes and get under the opposing player’s skin. And it proved effective: he led the Jazz to two NBA Finals and is currently the League’s all-time leader (by a large margin) in both total assists and steals.
The game is changing, though. Point guards in today’s League are expected to not only be the team’s primary ball-handler and facilitator, but also to shoot and score more often. A good chunk of teams are now led in scoring by their “1” guards: Bulls (Derrick Rose), Bucks (Brandon Jennings), Clippers (Chris Paul), Cavs (Kyrie Irving), Nets (Deron Williams), and Spurs (Tony Parker), to name a few. To put it in perspective, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are probably the two current players most comparable with Stockton in terms of playing style, but they are both more than 4,000 assists away from his total assists record. Even a player like Rajon Rondo, who seems like the NBA’s purest pass-first PG, can’t keep pace with Stockton’s stats:
|Stockton (6th season)||0.514||17.2||14.5||2.7||3.5|
|Rondo (6th season)||0.448||11.9||11.7||1.8||3.6|
Swag, Humility and Team Monogamy
John Stockton, officially recognized as the last man in the NBA to rock short-shorts, did not strive to be fashion icon. Though it could be argued that he inspired the recent “Chubbies” shorts craze. I’m just saying, he never embarrassed himself as much as Russell Westbrook does on a post-game press conference basis.
The point is that the dude did not care what he looked like and what others thought about him; he just did his job and didn’t care about the sideshow or being a celebrity. His lack of star-power actually made for the funniest scene in the Dream Team documentary.
How many of the current and future big-name ballers will stay with the same team for their entire career? NBA players of today are more like mercenaries or bounty hunters, always looking for the Big Dirty or the team offering the sweetest pay-day. Who didn’t loathe Lebron’s “Decision”, or the fact that we may pull out of Afghanistan before Dwight Howard picks a new team..? And for some players it’s less like loyalty, and more like a team’s just stuck with them: Kobe staying with the Lakers doesn’t seem quite as sincere as Tim Duncan with the Spurs.
Stockton was drafted by the Utah Jazz, fought hard and played his ass off for 19 seasons, took a $3 million pay cut just to finish his career with the Jazz, and retired with the love and respect of the entire City. Oh, and he’s got a statue outside of where the Jazz play. How many players will be able to say the same? MP.