Don’t change who you are. Don’t start growing a beard (as if I could!), buying fancy cars and jewelry, and playing the part. —Frank Layden, Former Jazz coach
Editor's note: This is the second of three excerpts from the new autobiography titled "Assisted: An Autobiography" by John Stockton with Kerry L. Pickett.
When I arrived in Salt Lake City for my rookie season, I was immediately whisked away to have a physical examination performed by the Jazz medical team.
Mostly this was standard operating procedure — giving blood, supplying a cough here, providing a sample there — but with a couple of twists. While submerged in deep water, the players were asked to climb onto a scale and exhale aggressively in order to determine our lean body mass or body fat.
Following the “baptism,” as the therapist, Moe Forsyth, referred to it, we were directed to a treadmill with monitors attached to our freshly shaved chests. The medical staff wanted to ascertain our levels of cardiovascular health and conditioning. Because of these shaved areas, we looked like mangy dogs as we began the stress test.
Apparently I made an instant impression when I asked, “What is the record time for this treadmill exam?” It wasn’t supposed to be a contest. Most guys ran only as long as required to complete the workup. Some worked a little longer so as to not look lazy. I looked at it a little differently and wanted to win both the body fat and stress tests, whether anyone else was trying or not.
In the years to come, Karl Malone and I competed for the lowest body fat until we both got below what the staff thought were safe levels for a season of competition. Each of us teetered between 1 and 3 percent. As for the treadmill test, I broke the existing record that year and my own record in each of the seasons that followed. That is, unless Dr. (Russell) Shields had been stroking my ego for 19 seasons.
Russ Shields is the extraordinary physician who administered the treadmill test. I trust his skill and judgment to this day. I still remember him pretending to be irritated by having to wait until my run was complete. My best guess was he enjoyed watching my personal battle with the machine.
The rest of the day, and most of the next week, was spent at my new home away from home, the Salt Lake Hilton hotel. The Hilton housed all of the Jazz hopefuls throughout training camp. I bumped into coach (Frank) Layden there in the gift shop where he offered me a bit of sage advice that I held dear throughout my career: “Don’t change who you are. Don’t start growing a beard (as if I could!), buying fancy cars and jewelry, and playing the part.” Taking his wisdom to heart, I didn’t change hairstyles, lifestyles, or even the length of my shorts for two decades. If nothing else, I was coachable.
John Stockton will be in Salt Lake City for two book signings:
Friday, Nov. 15 — City Creek location of Deseret Book, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 16 — Fanzz store at EnergySolutions Arena, 11 a.m-1 p.m.