Dick Harmon: Sloan and Stockton: Two of a rare kind

Published: Tuesday, April 7 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Jerry Sloan and John Stockton, it's official.

They've always been linked in so many ways but after Monday's official announcement they'll forever be welded with joint-entrance into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They are the last of a dying breed of old school basketball figures, so it's only fitting they enter the Great Hall shoulder-to-shoulder, in lockstep, and do so with the legendary Michael Jordan.

Sloan and Stockton. Will we ever see this kind of duo again? Will two guys like this appear on the NBA scene again, let alone together?

No, afraid not.

Sloan and Stockton, old-school icons, linked at the hip. They're the big-finned, carburetor-fed Chevy and Ford on a street filled with glittery GPS-guided, fuel-injected rollers laced with all the shiny trim that scream self-indulgence, pomp and pretense.

They represent the artistry of the game when it was Xs and Os instead of a choreographed dance with a ball.

They're old-school survivors of a game that's turned playground instead of chess match; look-at-me instead of team; execution over one-on-one get to the rim, get-out-of-my-way play.

Old school, as in really putting effort on defense, setting picks and taking charges, perfecting the pick and roll. And passing the ball.

They're old-school purists who got to the Hall without a marketing firm, advertising campaigns or CDs. They did it without baggy shorts, medallions hung on thick chains, slicked-back hair or red-carpet treatment.

Imagine anybody in the league wearing Stockton shorts today. Nobody will ever touch his record 15,806 assists but who knows, fashion trends may bring back those shorts.

Sloan and Stockton.

They didn't need tattoos to accentuate muscle or tell their stories in a game where their play was the ultimate bottom line and did all the talking.

Sloan's pack? His entourage was his late wife Bobbye and now it is new wife Tammy. Stockton's posse was his wife Nada and kids, no need or desire for more.

USA Today columnist Mike Lopresi once penned, "If Jerry Sloan were a Christmas tree, he wouldn't have a single ornament."

Of Stockton, legendary John Wooden once said he is the only NBA player he'd ever pay to watch.

Sloan has worked as a coach at the same job longer than anybody in American professional sports.

Stockton, the NBA's all-time assists and steal leader, was playing in this league into his 40s, a time many of his peers had hung it up for mansion keeping.

Old school, as when many teams in the league were going to those black shoes, Stockton lobbied amongst his team to keep it traditional, "we're not wearing those," and his mates followed.

Old school, as in bucking trends, avoiding popular fashion, the science of seeming rather than being.

Old school, as in practicing hard and often. Liking it.

"It's the best game in the world, that's part of the fun playing with Jerry (Sloan)," Stockton once said. "Some people don't understand that protection but he will fight for this game. I'd say it's something I've loved since I was a kid."

One year in the playoffs, Stockton didn't play very well. Nobody knew it until much later, the next fall, he'd played the end of the season with a shoulder injury and couldn't lift his arm. These days, some guys sit out months with a tweaked whatever.

Old school business. Stockton essentially had no agent. Early in his career he had one but later dropped him and represented himself. Outside of a Bountiful lawyer, not really an agent, Stockton negotiated his own contracts.

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