There is no question that John Stockton is one of the five best point guards who ever played the game. The point guard held career averages of 13.1 PPG, 10.5 APG, and 2.2 SPG while shooting 38.4% from three. He was a perfect point guard in terms of defending, playmaking, and being a reliable shooter from the perimeter which is why he is the all-time leader in assists and steals.
The Utah Jazz never missed the playoffs whenever Stockton was at the helm, and his partnership with Karl Malone is one of the best we have seen. But one aspect of Stockton’s game goes underappreciated: his durability. Stockton played 82 games 16 times in his career, only missing 2 seasons without playing every game (and playing in one lockout-shortened season). This is unprecedented because even when looking at the top-10 players of all-time, only Michael Jordan had impressive durability by playing 82 games 9 times. Stockton even managed to blow the GOAT out of the water in this category, because Stockton was capable of playing all 82 games per season if he did not experience a lockout season or injuries.
78 Games Played In 1990, 64 Games Played At 35 Years Old
John Stockton’s first season playing under 82 games came in 1990 when he was 27 years old. Stockton was spectacular that season by averaging 17.2 PPG and 14.5 APG and leading the league in assists for the 3rd straight season. Of course, Stockton was selected to his 2nd straight All-Star Team. His second time missing 82 games came in the 1998 season when he was 35 years old.
Stockton averaged 12.0 PPG and 8.5 APG for the Jazz, and Utah finished with the best record in the Western Conference. The Jazz were able to achieve that feat despite Stockton missing 18 games, his highest ever in a season. When Utah’s All-Star point guard returned, they made an NBA Finals run that was ended by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
A 50-Game Season Thanks To A Lockout
John Stockton managed to play all 50 games of the 1999 season, a year which was shortened by a lockout. That was the 3rd lockout in NBA history because teams were bargaining for changes in the league’s salary cap system and player salaries. The negotiations continued until February, where the season started after a few months of postponement. A 50-game season was commenced where Stockton’s teammate, Karl Malone, won MVP.
Stockton was solid that year averaging 11.1 PPG and 7.5 APG at 36 years old and led the Utah Jazz to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. As consistent as Stockton was at feeding Malone the ball on offense, the Jazz only made it to the second round of the playoffs by losing to Portland in 6 games.
Stockton Was Arguably The Most Durable Superstar, Even If Jordan Was The GOAT
Looking back at John Stockton’s career, it is clear he was the most durable superstar player ever. Playing 19 seasons in the league, he only missed a total of 22 games as a professional. It is likely no player will ever come close to that kind of durability, and that is the reason the Jazz legend leads all players in total assists and total steals. Even if Stockton dealt with injuries or setbacks, he always made sure he was healthy as soon as possible. He knew that the Jazz needed him, and he always responded.
Even Michael Jordan does not have that type of durability, playing 82 games 9 separate times. If Jordan managed to play 7 more seasons with 82 games to meet Stockton’s feat, he would have broken every record known to man. But it was simply not possible, especially as age and attrition started kicking in. Stockton played his last game in the 2003 season for the Jazz at 40 years old, and he even played 82 games the last 4 seasons of his career. Just like we will never see a player like Michael Jordan in skills, we will never see another John Stockton in durability.
John Stockton Roasted Michael Jordan For The 1998 Finals Shot: 'He Makes One Big Shot And Everybody Thinks He's Kinda Cool.'
John Stockton: "I Remember As A Rookie Larry Bird Walked By Our Bench And Said 'I Feel Like 43 Tonight.'"
Chris Webber: "John Stockton Would Come To The Game Literally In A Minivan, Pop His Kids Out, Come In There And Bust Us Up."
Fans Didn't Recognize John Stockton In Barcelona: “Really Not Much Different Than Michael Jordan Walking Around Here”