Utah Jazz: Stockton a 'perfect' point guard, a fierce floor general

Published: Friday, Sept. 11 2009 2:13 a.m. MDT

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — With neatly trimmed hair and an age-defying, almost-cherubic face that made him appear to not be too much older than the number 12 on his jersey, there's no doubt John Stockton had a squeaky, clean-cut image.

Knowing he came from a Catholic background and attended a private Jesuit college, some jokingly called him an alter boy or a choir boy.

He was adored and admired, did amazing things, was more generous than anybody in his profession, and spread happiness to many during 19 years under the spotlight.

The word "perfect" was even used by a couple of different, significant people in describing him recently.

With that kind of praise, you might think the special ceremony being held tonight on his behalf — and for four other elites — could be moved from Springfield, Mass., to the Vatican.

Though he seemed to pull off a few miracles on the court, the legendary Utah Jazz point guard will not be granted sainthood anytime soon — even if Saint Stockton has a certain ring to it.

The man considered by many to be the greatest pure point guard in NBA history will instead receive well-deserved and everlasting glory in the hoops world, not necessarily in the heavens, as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While angels might not harmonize choruses in his honor — unless they're Jazz fans, of course — a former foe and Stockton's old coach are quick to sing his praises.

"John Stockton is the perfect point guard," Charles Barkley told NBA.com. "There has never been a pure point guard who made better basketball decisions with the ball — ever."

Jerry Sloan will give a straight-from-the-soul "Amen!" to that.

The Jazz coach, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time as his star pupil along with Michael Jordan, David Robinson and C. Vivian Stringer, recently came across a football coach's description of another player that hit home. It made Sloan reflect on Stockton, resonating in his head like the cheers of Jazz fans after any one of the point guard's thousands of assists, steals or timely buckets.

Simply put, Sloan thought how New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick described retiring linebacker Tedy Bruschi as being "a perfect player" was, well, a perfect way to articulate his thoughts about Stockton.

"I'd never heard that before, but it certainly would represent John Stockton in almost every aspect of basketball," Sloan said. "When you say he's 'a perfect player,' (it was) the way he handled himself, the way he prepared himself to play, all those things."

Sloan was fortunate to see it from the inside every day. Thousands of times.

There were many of "those things" that made Stockton a fan — and coach — favorite in Utah for nearly two decades.

Like, for instance, Stockton being able to achieve and accomplish so many records and milestones and having so much success despite playing with a small-by-NBA-standards body and an appearance that looked anything but intimidating (those occasional scary-Stockton glares, notwithstanding).

Consider the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder's durability and bounce-back ability, which helped him play every game in 17 of his 19 seasons for a total of 1,504 appearances in 1,526 regular-season contests, while also helping him to be productive even up until he retired at the age of 41.

And his accuracy and generosity, which led to him racking up more assists — a still-standing NBA record 15,806 — than anybody in the league had ever dreamed of dishing out.

His greediness and timing, which helped him set the NBA steals record with 3,265 in his career.

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