It’s rare for an NBA player to spend their whole career with one team. Often, players get traded or leave on their own through free agency. However, the ones that do stay often become staples of the team and beloved by the fans.
For the Utah Jazz, John Stockton is one of those mainstay players. Stockton, who turns 57 on March 26, sported the No. 12 jersey for the Jazz for 19 years from 1984-2003, making him beloved by many generations of fans.
Stockton was born on March 26, 1962, in Spokane, Washington to Clementine Frei and Jack Stockton. While he had offers to play at other schools, he opted to spend his college career playing for Gonzaga University. During his time as a college player, he was named to the All-WCC Team during his junior and senior years. During his senior season with Gonzaga, he averaged 20.9 points per game and led the league in scoring assists and steals. Because of his outstanding stats, he was named as the WCC Player of the Year in 1984 for his phenomenal senior season. As a result, he was one of 74 college seniors chosen to try out for the 1984 Olympic team. He didn’t make the cut, but the invitation spoke volumes about his abilities and potential. In the 1984 NBA draft, he was selected by the Utah Jazz as the 16th pick overall. While he wasn’t a well-known prospect at the time of the draft, his career has shown that where you start and people’s perceptions don’t matter if you’re willing to work hard.
In Stockton’s 19-year career, he racked up a double-double average of 13.1 points and 10.5 assists per game. He led the Jazz to two NBA Championship finals. He was named an NBA All-Star 10 times and NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1993. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice—once for his individual career (2009) and again in 2010 for being a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team (the “Dream Team,” which won the gold medal in Barcelona, Spain). He was also a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team which also won gold that year.
Despite retiring in 2003, Stockton still holds the NBA all-time record for steals (3,265) and assists (15,806). He also holds all-time records for the Jazz for games played (1,504), assists (15,806), steals (3,265), assists per game (10.5), steals per game (2.2), assist percentage (50.2), and offensive win shares (142.8).
One of the reasons Stockton was such a successful player for the Jazz is because he had the right person by his side to help him develop. Karl Malone, who was drafted by the Jazz in 1985, was with Stockton for 18 years of his career. One of their signature moves that would baffle opponents was the “pick and roll.” While the sequence was used often, opposing defenses often had no answer for the pair.
During the Stockton and Malone era, the Jazz never failed to make it to the NBA playoffs. One of the biggest highlights in John Stockton’s career came in the 1997 Western Conference Championship when he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in game six to send the Jazz to the NBA Finals.
Since his retirement, Stockton has trained a variety of youth squads and has even written an autobiography. He was an assistant coach for the Montana State women’s basketball team from 2015-16. Both the Utah Jazz and Gonzaga retired his No. 12 jersey.
While Stockton’s career has made a notable impact on the NBA and the Jazz, it has also affected his family. Many of Stockton’s children play a sport of some kind, with a majority of them playing basketball in professional or college leagues. His son David Stockton played for the Utah Jazz in 2018. In addition to that, his brother and three nephews also played college basketball. The current NBA touts many amazing players; however, only a few players will ever reach the career heights of players like Stockton. Even though Stockton has never won an NBA Championship, he is still referred to as one of the greatest NBA players of all time—even after 16 years off the court.