John Stockton – He Giveth and He Taketh Away

Photo: Andy Hayt NBAE/Getty ImagesPhoto: Andy Hayt NBAE/Getty Images

Steve Nash is on the verge of passing Magic Johnson for fourth all-time on the NBA’s career assist leaderboard.  Too bad he will never be number one. That title belongs to Utah Jazz legend, John Stockton.

Chris Palmer, an ESPN NBA Insider recently tweeted about Stockton’s assist record calling it, “the most unbreakable record in sports.” During his illustrious career Stockton tallied 15,806 assists. Jason Kidd is second, 3,816 behind Stockton. Here is a look at the top 25 all-time; there are only three active players on the list for now.

All time Assists Leaders

Stockton had ten seasons where he averaged at least 10 APG, and in eight of those seasons he averaged more than 12. No active NBA player has ever averaged 12 APG in a season.

So is the record really unbreakable? Here is a look at the three active players on the list and what they would need to do in order to pass up Stockton.

JASON KIDD

Kidd is currently in his 18th season in the league.  Stockton ran the point for 19 seasons.  Kidd has been a great all-around point guard and was even able to get something that Stockton wasn’t, a championship. His best season assist wise was in 1998-99 for the Suns when he averaged 10.8 APG. But as is with any player his stats have declined, as he has gotten older. This season with the Knicks his assists average has dipped to 3.8 per game, the lowest of his career.

Over Kidd’s last five seasons he has averaged 7 APG, pretty good for an old man. If Kidd were to keep up this pace he would need to play another 6 and a half seasons at 82 games per season in order to break Stockton’s record and at age 39 that is not going to happen.  It’s safe to say that Kidd won’t be moving up from number two anytime soon.

STEVE NASH

Steve Nash is in his 16th season.  Nash is a wizard with the ball and was a revolutionary point guard in his prime who has turned sub-par big men into stars with the way he weaves around off of the pick and roll.  His best season came in Phoenix when he averaged 11.6 APG during the 2006-07 season. Nash currently trails Stockton by 5,714 assists.

In his last five seasons Nash has averaged 10.1 APG. Nash would need to play nearly seven more full seasons before he would own the record. Nash is 38 and is having his lowest APG total in ten years. With the Lakers struggling this season look for Kobe to start controlling the ball even more than he already does, taking away opportunities for Nash to dish.  He will never make it to the top of the list but with a couple more solid seasons Steve Nash has a real chance to climb to number two.

ANDRE MILLER

Talk about coming out of the blue. The University of Utah product currently ranks 10th all-time in career assists.  Miller is the model of consistency; in his 13th year he has only had one season where he averaged double-digit assists, which came in Cleveland when he dished 10.9 per game in 2001-02.  But he’s always been in the six to eight assists range.  Miller currently stands at 7,744 assists, trailing Stockton by a whopping 8,062.

Miller has averaged a respectable 6.3 APG over his last five years. In order for him to break Stockton’s record at that pace he would need to play 30 more seasons. Unless Andre discovers the fountain of youth or finds a way to freeze the space-time continuum, that is never going to happen.

After comparing these three guys to Stockton I would say Chris Palmer was dead on, it is the most unbreakable record. None of them have a chance.  There are some nice young guards in the NBA now who in 15 years could possibly make a run at it.

Rajon Rondo has the best chance as he has averaged over 11 APG each of the last three seasons, but he is out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL. Chris Paul is another candidate to be considered.  Paul is renowned as the best point guard in the game and gets assists with regularity.  His best assists year was 07-08 when he averaged 11.8, but hasn’t totaled more than 10/game in the past three years.  Paul is still 10,314 assists away from Stockton’s record and would need to average 11 assists per game for ten more seasons to get to Stockton.  Not going to happen.

Kyrie Irving and John Wall are both electric, young guards who will never amount the assist totals that Stockton had because their teams need them to score first. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook are both dynamic players that do a good job of dishing the rock but are also relied upon to score in order for their teams to win.

The amazing thing about Stockton is that not only did he pass the ball like nobody else; he stole it better than everyone too. In what might be the second-most “unbreakable record” Stockton amassed 3,265 steals over his career.

All Time steals

Only four active players were able to crack the top 25 in the steals list, with Jason Kidd coming in second again trailing Stockton by 635 steals.

Stockton had three seasons where he averaged at least three steals per game, the four active players on this list combined for zero seasons like that. Kidd, Bryant, Garnett and World Peace are all on the back end of their careers making it more and more likely that Stockton’s steals record will also never fall.

After starring for his hometown Gonzaga Bulldogs the Jazz selected him with the 16th pick in the 1984 draft. Stockton played in 1,504 of a possible 1,526 games for the Jazz (98.5%) making him one of the most durable players ever.

It is pretty incredible this kid from tiny Spokane, Washington was able to become a ten-time all-star, Olympic Gold medalist and hold two of the most important records related to the point guard position. Stockton is the definition of a player who worked to get the most out of what he was dealt. He is arguably the greatest point guard to ever live despite lacking the athleticism that many elite point guards had.

For 19 years Jazz fans got to watch Stockton as he piled up the wins, assists and steals. Stockton’s records really are “unbreakable” and we will never see a point guard affect the game the way he did.

Posted in Featured Writers
  • Skyler Hardman

    Stockton was so reliable. Over 19 years he played in 98.5% of games?? That’s crazy. I don’t care how lucky you are he was playing through some serious pain some nights.

    • http://www.facebook.com/denise.knighton Denise Knighton

      Sure did Skyler. Do you remember the one year where Stockton played almost the whole season with a broken finger. That would put guys like LeBron and Kobe on the DL.

  • Clint Peterson

    Love me some Mo Cheeks. He always gets left off these lists.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Jagroo23 Erik Anderson

      He’s on both lists, 11th for assists, 5th on steals.

  • billygoat2020

    Was at a coaches clinic several years ago where John Wooden was the keynote speaker. There was a Q & A period after he spoke. A member of the audience asked what current or recent player did he feel played the game the way he felt it was meant to be played. Without hesitation, he said John Stockton. He said that too often players do not focus as much, or work as hard, on the defensive end as they do on their offensive skills. Stockton did both, as evidenced by the two records talked about in this article. It was a pleasure to watch him play.

  • JasonH

    Greatest Point Guard of All-Time, no question. I watched him night in and night out, against Jordan, Payton, Hardaway, Magic, Thomas, Drexler, and the list goes on. I have his jersey hanging in my home, and tried my darndest to play like him. He just worked everyone else out of the gym. A true legend who’s assists record won’t be broken.

    • Steve Eagle

      Man Stockton on Jordan was something else. Those two went at it. Most of his opponents – Jordan included – probably thought Stockton was a pushover the first time they played against each other. I’m sure they didn’t hold that view by the end of the game.

  • Steve Eagle

    The more time that passes, the more people come to realize just how special John Stockton was. Even better than his records was his attitude. All he knew how to do was play his heart out. And just think of how many points he contributed to Karl Malone’s #2 all-time scoring total. The only reason Malone didn’t make it to #1 was because of the LA trade. I strongly believe that if had he stayed in Utah for one more season, MAYBE two, he would have passed Kareem, and Stockton’s numbers would be even more impressive than they are now. Oh well, I can’t really complain – I just feel fortunate to have watched Stockton play in his glory days. We’ll never see another PG quite like him. Rondo – if he stays healthy – has the potential to reach Stockton’s level, but he better mature fast or he’s going to be sitting out a lot more games.

    • http://www.facebook.com/wade.kerkman Wade Kerkman

      Stock made the decision to retire before malone chose to go to L.A., would have had no effect on John.

    • Mel Sapoi

      The only reason Malone left to L.A. is because Stockton retired; had Stockton chose not to retire, Malone would’ve stayed in Utah.

  • http://www.facebook.com/homiedavid David Alexander

    It helped that Malone was on his team: second on the all-time scoring list.

    • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.hall.710 Daniel Hall

      Or Karl was lucky Stockton was his pg so he could be 2nd all time scoring.

  • http://twitter.com/donjasiano Jason Howell

    Good article, but I disagree that Stockton lacked the athleticism that other elite point guards had. For some reason, players like Stockton and Larry Bird (I’m sure you can make the connection) are described as “lacking athleticism”. Stockton had as much as anyone else. He just chose not to be flashy with it.

    • Brett Wright

      Completely disagree. Stockton was simply smarter than everyone. He’s very

      athletic compared to the non-NBA players but he was nowhere near the athleticism of Kevin Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury, etc. Those guys and others were simply bigger, faster and stronger. BUT, those guys did not perfect the pick ‘n’ roll or wait for the trailer on the fast break. Stockton was simply smarter on BOTH ends of the court. I would take Stockton in a second over any point GUARD (not including “point forward”) who ever played, period. As far as athleticism goes, I politely disagree that he was in the same category as other pg’s. Throw Tim Hardaway, Penny, MJ on some nights, etc. Even Ricky Green was a lot more athletic than Stockton.

      • millsapfan

        Stockton wasn’t blessed with an athletic body. 6’2 isn’t anything to write home about. He molded his body into perfect nba point guard. 1.5 percent body fat! People have said that he could get back to his resting heart rate after playing a full 48 minutes and then shooting free throws. That’s something you’re not born with, he worked for that!

  • Jeremy C Johnson

    Stockton could still put up 5 assists a game putting in probably 25 minutes a game if he were to play at his age. Dude was amazing!

  • Danny Jesus

    I’m tired of hearing this crap that he isn’t the best point guard of all time. I knew of these stats many years ago before he retired and everybody always has to bring up Magic. I would take Stock as my #1 pick any day due to his heart and high basketball IQ. Not only that; he was an awesome shooter +50 FG% and was a great team defender. He is the reason that I started to playing basketball. To top it all off; he stole the night away from Michael Jordan in his hall of fame speech…Awesome

    • Brett Wright

      Danny, if you and I played a game of 2 on 2 together assuming you and are are equally talented…my team would win 9 out of 10 times. Magic was more versatile overall. I agree that Stockton is BY FAR the “most pure” point guard ever. However, if I’m starting a team and have a chance to draft only Magic or John, I will take Magic 10 out of 10 times. The ONLY time I’d consider taking Stockton would be if the rest of his teammates were GREAT scorers/shooters, rebounders AND defenders. If not, I’ll take Magic. I often wished Stockton would have taken more shots because he had such a high percentage.

      • http://www.facebook.com/derrik.holt Derrik Holt

        The NBA is played 5 on 5 not 2 on 2. Stockton was by far the best

  • muzikman

    Stockton… number one all time in both steals and assists.
    Malone, number 2 all time scoring and 10 in steals.

    Not a bad one – two punch for both offense AND defense.
    Wish more players were willing to play their hearts out like those two were.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.greco.12 Jeremy Greco

    I grew up in Magic’s Showtime era in L.A., then the year Magic retired I moved to SLC in the hey day of Stockton to Malone. I became a season ticket holder of the Jazz and as much of a fan of the Jazz as I had been of the Showtime Lakers. I have always felt Stock’s record was unbreakable, but… That’s only because Magic retired so early after only 11 seasons. Sure he came back as a forward for part of 1 year but if he had stayed the Laker point guard for 19 straight seasons we would be talking about Magic’s assist record & triple double record that would never be broken. If I had my pick of Magic or Stock, I’d take Magic every time. And not just for his game but also for the fire he brought to the game of others.

  • maxxpi@att.net

    Incredible. I am grateful and glad I had the chance to watch him all those years. Truly, the best point guard ever!! thank you John Stockton for some incredible moments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deronwilliams8 Brent Warheit

    Its crazy someone posted a list of top 20 players of all time and both Stock and Malone were left out and reading through the comments reactions, no one not one said anything about stockton and malone not being on that list.

    Yes they didnt win a NBA title, but they took Utah to the playoffs every year with 60 win seasons almost every year.

    How can you say these two are not two of the top 20 players and personally top 10 of all time.
    With the 20k points and 15k assists he contributed for over 50k points in his career, how many have did that in NBA history…

  • Jammin

    I’m pretty sure Wilt’s 23924 rebounds is unbreakable. Closest active player Kevin Garnett 13689. I would take John’s 15806 assists as second though.