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John Stockton (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Celebrate John Stockton’s Birthday With The 12 Best Moments From His Career

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – John Stockton turns 58 years old today. One of the two greatest players in Utah Jazz history and one of the best players to ever play the position, Stockton remains the prototype for pass-first point guards in the NBA.

In honor of his 58th birthday and the jersey number which he donned for 19 years with the Jazz, these are the 12 best moments from Stockton’s Hall of Fame career.

12. Stockton’s Layup Beats Bulls In 1989

In a preview of future Finals matchups, the Jazz matched up with the Chicago Bulls in one of the league’s best-ever regular-season games in team history.

Trailing by seven points in the final minute, Stockton put on a clinic for what would represent his incredible career. The Jazz point guard hit a clutch three-point shot with 38 seconds left in the game, stole the ball from Michael Jordan on an inbound pass to feed Blue Edwards for a fast-break lay-in, before winning the game on a buzzer-beat body contorting layin after breaking Jordan’s ankles for the finish.

Stockton finished the game with 22 points, 18 assists, and three steals to seal the victory over Jordan’s Bulls.

11. Stockton Named One Of NBA’s 50 Greatest Players

In 1996, to honor the 50th anniversary of the National Basketball Association, Stockton and teammate Karl Malone were named two of the league’s 50 greatest players in league history.

In just the 12th season of his 19-year career, Stockton had led the league in total assists for nine straight years, led the league in total steals twice, and at 33 years old, shockingly led the league in effective field goal percentage.

While Stockton’s longevity was a highlight of his game, he was well known as one of the best to ever play the game midway through his incredible career.

10. Stockton shares Co-MVP of the NBA All-Star Game In Salt Lake City

With a team on the rise, a new arena, and two proven superstars, the Jazz were set to become a force to be reckoned with throughout the ’90s. As a result, the state of Utah was awarded the 1993 All-Star game and neither Stockton or Malone disappointed the home crowd.

Malone led the West in scoring with 28 points, while Stockton dished out 15 assists and the dynamic duo shared the MVP award with a 135-132 victory over the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

The game was decided in overtime, after which the Jazz stars held the MVP trophy with their families at midcourt.

9. Stockton Wins Two Gold Medals With Team USA

The Dream Team of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics might be the most celebrated basketball team ever assembled. It’s certainly the most talented, but Stockton was almost left off the team… twice.

First, as a result of the bad blood between the two franchises, there was no love lost between Bulls stars Jordan and Scottie Pippen and Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas. When setting the final roster for the ’92 games, the Jordan led team pressured USA basketball to leave Thomas off the roster in favor of the younger, more unproven Stockton.

Second, a broken leg in practice put Stockton’s entire Olympic hopes in jeopardy. Eventually, after missing all of Group Play, the Jazz guard would appear in the final four games of the Dream Team’s Gold Medal Performance.

Stockton would again represent the state of Utah in 1996, repeating as Gold Medal winner in Atlanta.

8. Stockton Sets All-Time Steals Record

As the NBA has progressively moved towards an offense driven game, the role of the tenacious perimeter defender is becoming rarer and rarer. Players in the form of James Harden and Steph Curry dominate one side of the ball while teams work to disguise their shortcomings on the other end.

Stockton never took this luxury and as a result, was one of the most dangerous help-side perimeter defenders in league history. As a result of Stockton’s basketball IQ and elite motor, the Jazz guard led the league in steals per game twice during his career, and only failed to record more than 100 steals in a season twice during his career.

On February 20, 1996, in front of a sold home crowd, Stockton recorded te 2,311th steal of his career against the Boston Celtics, breaking Maurice Cheeks record, and forever enshrining himself as the greatest ball thief in basketball history.

 

7. Stockton Leads League In Career 20 Assist Games

With triple-doubles and 50 points games becoming the in-vogue stats of the modern game, other statistical accomplishments have fallen by the wayside. One notably rare accomplishment that has become particularly hard to achieve is the 20 assist outing.

Stockton made the 20 assists game commonplace, he almost made it passe.

There have only been 217 such outings in NBA history, and Stockton somehow owns a mindboggling 34 of those games, or 15 percent. Stockton’s career-high came against the San Antonio Spurs in 1991 when the point guard recorded a stunning 28 dimes.

6. Stockton Records Nine Career 20/20 Games

If 20 point games were becoming a rarity, 2o point 20 rebound games are almost unheard of. Though he was never thought of as a scorer, Stockton recorded nine such outings, trailing only Magic Johnson’s 13 for the All-Time record.

Perhaps more impressively, Stockton recorded all nine of his 20/20 games in a three-year span between 1989 and 1991, and joins Johnson as one of only two players to have 20/20 games in back to back performances.

5. Stockton Plays Final Game In Sacramento

Not every memory in Stockton’s career is marked with a game-winner or record-breaking statistic. Instead, one of the most iconic memories of Stockton’s historic career was his final appearance on an NBA court.

After recording a pedestrian eight points and seven assists in 27 minutes in a blowout loss to the Sacramento Kings, head coach Jerry Sloan subbed Stockton out of the game for the final time in his career.

Kings fans recognizing the significance of the moment gave Stockton a standing ovation as he left the floor for the final time. Though many knew it was coming, Stockton abruptly retired during locker room cleanout for the Jazz ending one of the greatest careers in NBA history.

4. Stockton Leads Jazz To Back To Back Finals Appearances

After a half-decade of disappointing playoff exits that prevented the Jazz from winning an NBA championship, the team finally broke through against the Houston Rockets in 1997.

Though Stockton became one of roughly a dozen superstars to fall sort of an NBA title thanks to the incredible run of Jordan and the Bulls in the ’90s, the Jazz two Western Conference titles remain the high point for the franchise, and have set the bar for which each team has been judged over the last two and a half decades.

3. Stockton’s Finals Game Four Pass 

While making the Finals felt like a breakthrough for the Jazz, proving they could compete against the Bulls was the next step in the team’s progression.

At no point was that progression more obvious than in game four with the Jazz trailing by one late in the game, Stockton grabbed the rebound off of a Jordan miss, took one dribble and fired a 90-foot strike to Malone for a layup and a Jazz lead. The Jazz would go on to win the game 78-73 thanks to a 12-2 run to close the game and pull the series even at two games apiece.

2. Stockton Becomes All-Time Assists Leader

Playing the role of the distributor in the greatest pick and roll duo in NBA history, it’s only fitting that Stockton would also own nearly every assist record in NBA history.

While neither the all-time steals or assists record will ever be broken, Stockton’s career assists number stands so far above his closest competition it’s hard to fathom that it was done during the rough and tumble offenses of the ’90s basketball.

Stockton sits more than 3,700 assists ahead of Jason Kidd for the number two spot on the All-Time list, and more than 6,000 assists ahead of Chris Paul for active players in the NBA. For Paul to break Stockton’s record, he’d have to average 20 assists per game for the next four seasons to catch the all-time leader.

Fittingly, Stockton handed out his record-breaking 9,922nd assist to Malone against the Denver Nuggets

1. Stockton Hits The Shot

Not only is it the greatest memory in Stockton’s career, but it is the best moment in Jazz history, and one of the most memorable moments in the history of the NBA.

With the game tied at 100 and just 2.8 seconds left on the clock, forward Bryon Russell found Stockton on an inbound pass with just enough space and time to dribble into an open three-point look. Stockton released the ball over future Hall of Famer Charles Barkley’s outstretched arms and watched the ball fall perfectly through the net to send the Jazz to their first NBA finals.

The shot led to previously unseen emotion from Stockton and Malone as the two were mobbed by teammates at half court to celebrate the victory.

What many people forget is Stockton’s dominant performance leading up to the clutch basket. The Jazz trailed by 10 points with just under three minutes to play before the point guard took over. Stockton would score 11 points in the final three minutes of the quarter to erase the double-digit deficit and keep the Jazz final hopes alive.

Happy Birthday John Stockton, and thanks for the memories.

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