SALT LAKE CITY — Here is all the dirt on John Stockton: He wrecked his parents’ car as a teenager and rolled a mangled tire into the Spokane River. He cursed at his brother during driveway pickup games. He botched the words at his wedding rehearsal, nervously pledging his “love and infidelity,” rather than fidelity.
He admits that late in his career he failed to address an undercurrent of discord among teammates, which hurt chemistry.
So there you have it, straight from his soon-to-be-released book, “Assisted,” written with his middle school coach, Kerry Pickett. Sex, drugs and partying? There’s none of that. No tattling on teammates, either.
“Bad as I Wanna Be” it’s not.
If you thought you knew the Hall of Fame basketball player, the answer is yes and no. That “altar boy” image is true, at least in one sense: He really was an altar boy.
But did you know he wore short shorts mainly because the assistant trainer gave them to him at that length every year? It wasn’t until late in his career that he made them slightly longer.
“He said, ‘Are you adding anything to your shorts?’” Stockton recalled in a Tuesday phone interview. “I said, ‘You can do that?’”
Added Stockton: “I was just lucky to have a uniform.”
The player who had eyes behind his head also has a writers’ eye for anecdotes. For example, the night he got a speeding ticket as he was preparing to propose to his future wife. He was too miffed to follow through until a few days later.
The first time he touched the ball in an NBA practice, Rickey Green stole it. The first time he tried a shot, Jeff Wilkins swatted it with ease. As Stockton humorously notes, Wilkins rejected it with “extreme prejudice.”
The big surprise of the book is that he actually wrote it. He wanted to get thoughts down for his family, but as his project expanded, it became a book idea. There’s nary a swear word included, making it more than acceptable for Shadow Mountain, a division of Deseret Book. His main criticism comes at his own expense, saying that at the end of his career, small, selfish attitudes had begun to hurt the team.
“That was a really tough part to cover,” he said.
He also includes observations on parenting, including candid thoughts on abortion. A father of six children, his belief is that at conception, the child has rights, same as the parents.
“We discussed that one a lot, got it pared down a lot,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s such a touchy subject. But after I had written it — and I don’t want to offend anyone — but it’s not a subject with a lot of gray areas.”
Included in the book are references to Salt Lake City, a place he calls a perfect fit. His only complaint: Final Four games being preempted by LDS General Conference.
As he notes, some LDS members might even back him up on that.
Stockton writes of his first apartment in Utah, a low-rent place where he kept the heat turned off, wore sweats to stay warm and bought cases of canned chili to save money. He also references becoming fast friends with Karl Malone after meeting at the Olympic Trials.
Some of it is touching, such as his unapologetic devotion to his wife, Nada, their kids, and his parents. He even addresses his policy on autographs (mainly that he doesn’t sign for for-profit collectors).
Not surprising is his attention to detail. After all, details were the key to his game. The grammar is good enough that he even discusses the difference between the contraction “it’s” and the possessive pronoun “its.”
“I completely wrote it and then I’d meet with the coach (Pickett) and pare it down and he would make suggestions,” Stockton said. “It was mostly mine, but I don’t want to downplay his role.”
Downplaying anyone’s role — except his own — wouldn’t be Stockton’s style.
There are certainly places where he could have complained or revealed stories about teammates.
“They’re all private people, too, and I didn’t want to talk about their lives, yet they’re part of mine, and I wanted to mention and describe them without being intrusive,” he said.
Still, it’s a humorous, carefully framed work from one of the game’s greatest players. It’s not salacious, but it isn’t lacking in interesting anecdotes, either. His gratitude and sincerity come through.
There’s not much fans can wish from a superstar beyond that.
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Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company