Enough already with all this endless free agent scuttlebutt about Boozer and LeBron, Bosh and Dwyane (which, by the way, might be the most convoluted way ever invented to spell the name Duane).

If you're anything like me, you've grown weary of hearing about where they might end up playing basketball next season, and how many gazillion dollars they'll be making just to put that ball in the hoop.

I sure do miss the good ol' days, when many star players spent their entire careers with one ballclub.

I miss John Stockton, who toiled for the same Utah Jazz team throughout his entire 19-year, "Little Engine That Could" career. You don't think he could've bolted sometime along the way to go play somewhere else for more money?

You'd better believe it. Of course he could have, several times.

But, to his credit, Stockton stayed here. Maybe he was afraid to get out of his comfort zone. Maybe it was his fear of the unknown. Maybe he simply chose to stay where he felt he belonged, where he knew he'd always be loved and appreciated by fans and a franchise that treated him well.

I'd prefer to call it something else.


Loyalty to the franchise that drafted him when a lot of so-called "experts" thought they should've taken somebody else. Yes, Stockton's selection drew plenty of boos and jeers on draft day, just as Gordon Hayward's selection did last week. Back in 1984 — and, perhaps, again in 2010 — several other NBA teams probably scoffed out loud at Utah's first-round pick.

Stockton stayed loyal and true to the team that gave him his chance, an opportunity that many other NBA teams likely would not have given the baby-faced kid from Gonzaga.

That loyalty turned into a historic, Hall of Fame career for which Jazz fans and management will be eternally grateful.

The same could be said for Karl Malone — well, except for that little one-year journey to L.A. to play for the Lakers in an ill-fated attempt to win a championship at the end of his career.

I certainly can't fault Malone too much for leaving, either. He played for peanuts, by NBA standards anyway, in his short stint with the Lakers. And he was honest in his desire and sole goal for leaving Utah — to try and win an NBA title before he was done.

For 18 seasons, though, you could count on the Mailman to make his deliveries in Utah. Too often nowadays, professional athletes loudly proclaim that their biggest priority is to win a championship — and then they promptly go sign with whichever team waves the most money in front of their overpaid faces.


The kind that would keep LeBron James in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade in Miami.

Indeed, any more, it seems like a lost quality.

Heck, the only loyalty most athletes seem to have nowadays is to themselves — and to the almighty dollar.

Of course, you could make the argument that, quite often, professional franchises aren't very loyal to their players, either. Loyalty should be a two-way street, and athletes often get traded away or released right when they're about to receive a fat salary bonus, or just before it's time to pick up their option.

In this day and age of free agency and mega-million contracts, I suppose it's silly to think that a pro athlete would want to stay in one place, especially if he could make more money someplace else.

But, fortunately, that wasn't always true. Some of pro sports' all-time greats stayed put, even though they certainly could've gone elsewhere.

John Elway spent his entire NFL career with the Denver Broncos. Ditto for major league baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles. Way back when, if you can imagine, Brooks Robinson (Orioles) and Carl Yastrzemski (Red Sox) each played 23 years — and never changed teams.

But, let's face it, the bulk of their careers came before Curt Flood's bold decision to challenge baseball's reserve clause, which eventually opened the door for free agency.

Since then, however, a handful of high-profile NBA players have, like Stockton, stayed with the same team throughout their careers. And currently in the NBA, stars like Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Tim Duncan (Spurs), Paul Pierce (Celtics) and Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) have each spent their entire careers with one team — thus far. We must say thus far, because Pierce and Nowitzki have declared themselves free agents this year.

Chances are, though, they'll re-sign with the Celtics and Mavs, respectively.

Because they're among that shrinking group of guys that seem to hold on to that vanishing virtue called loyalty — an admirable quality that seems to have gone the way of Stockton's short shorts, and likely won't be coming back any time soon, if at all.

e-mail: rhollis@desnews.com