Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Kent Horner/NBAE via Getty Images /

28. John Stockton

  • Resume: 19 seasons, 11-time All-NBA selection, 10-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP, 5-time NBA All-Defensive Team, 9-time NBA leader in assists, 2-time NBA leader in steals, NBA’s all-time assists leader, NBA’s all-time steals leader, member of the Dream Team, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, .515/.384/.826 shooting splits, 21.8 career PER, 207.7 win shares

“Stockton and Malone.” It’s become a term synonymous with perfect execution in the pick-and-roll. It also evokes the memories of a Utah Jazz team that was deprived of an NBA championship not once, but twice because of Michael Jordan’s Bulls. When you think of Stockton by himself, however, you start to see just how one-of-a-kind he was.

There are the obvious standout traits of Stockton’s 19-year career other than the general “Holy s**t, he played 19 seasons in the NBA!” reaction. He’s the NBA all-time leader in assists by a Shaq-sized margin (more than 3,000, to be exact), he only missed 23 games for his entire career (with 18 coming in one season) and though he was never truly dominant, you could have absolutely won a title with John Stockton as your starting point guard.

He wasn’t particularly interesting; his pick-and-rolls with Karl Malone were incredibly effective, but they honestly got kind of boring because they were so predictable. Stockton wasn’t particularly charismatic; he was just a straight-forward white guy wearing his short shorts and running his team’s offense in the most efficient and uninspiring way ever. John Stockton was like clockwork, for better or worse.

Despite the tremendous steal numbers, his playoff heroics in 1997 and 1998 against lesser guards overshadowed how poorly he matched up with the likes of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Gary Payton in the years prior. But he was fundamentally sound and steady for nearly two decades. There’s something to be said for that, even if he never broke through to win a title.