UTAH JAZZ

Olynyk: John Stockton Still ‘Best Player’ At Pickup

Oct 10, 2022, 1:56 PM | Updated: 2:37 pm

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Utah Jazz center Kelly Olynyk as a member of the Gonzaga Bulldogs (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – When it comes to pickup basketball, John Stockton still has it according to new Utah Jazz center Kelly Olynyk.

Both Gonzaga alums, Stockton hosts weekly pickup games in his native Spokane with rosters made up of active NBA players and former greats from the school.

Olynyk discussed sharing the floor with Stockton at Sunday pickup games.

“Yeah, he can play,” Olynyk said of the Hall of Fame guard. “He’s [darn] near the best player out there every single possession.”

Pickup Games Hosted By John Stockton

In a story from Sports Illustrated last year, details of Stockton’s Sunday pickup game were made public, despite the Jazz legend’s notoriously secretive nature.

According to the SI article, games are held at The Warehouse Athletic Facility which Stockton purchased in the early 2000s. Games are invite-only and those attending must be hand-picked by Stockton himself.

Olynyk admitted he hadn’t played in the Sunday pickup game in several years, but that Stockton was still dominant well into his mid-50s.

“When you go and play with him, he’s one of those guys that he doesn’t miss mid-range jumpers,” Olynyk said.

While Stockton’s mid-range game may not match up with today’s modern analytics, there’s a reason he still values the shot.

“When he plays, he plays all by ones,” Olynyk said. “Threes are one, twos are one, layups are one, He’s old-school.”

According to Sports Illustrated, the games are played to seven, fullcourt, with the winners staying on the floor.

In addition to his mid-range game, it doesn’t sound like much else has changed about Stockton’s hard-nosed style of play, even in retirement.

“He’s just so good with the ball, so good with his eyes,” Olynyk said. “He’s so strong — so strong setting screens on the ball, can’t bump him off the ball. But he’s a competitor, he loves to play.”

Olynyk was acquired by the Jazz last month from the Detroit Pistons in return for Boan Bogdanovic. The center spent three seasons at Gonzaga where he was named the 2013 WCC Player of the Year before being selected with the 13th pick of the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics.

Details Of The Pickup Games

The games usually attract 25-40 participants, all of whom must receive a personal invite from the 10-time All-Star. According to Sports Illustrated, the hoopers usually consist of former college players from the area, including Gonzaga, Eastern Washington, or nearby Whitworth.

New invitees likely won’t make it into a game during their first few visits until Stockton gives them the nod of approval. Like most pickup games, the winning team stays on the floor while the losers rotate out.

Gonzaga legends Adam Morrison and Robert Sacre can occasionally be found at the games. Current Gonzaga players traditionally don’t participate during the season for fear of injury.

Stockton retired from the NBA in 2003 after spending 19 seasons with the Jazz. The guard was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

With 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals, Stockton is the only player to own NBA records in two of the five major statistical categories.

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Olynyk: John Stockton Still ‘Best Player’ At Pickup