What made John Stockton stick out over the years? Why haven’t we seen another like him? By the time Chris Paul finishes his career, he might be the closest player to Stockton we see in the modern era. Both are commanding floor generals that take defense as seriously as any player on the floor. With that said, Stockton was consistent, durable, and had longevity in the league, playing past his 40s.
When it comes to point guards, there are a few worth mentioning as the greatest on the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, which will be recognized on Sunday at the All-Star Break. While Magic Johnson will be headlined on that list, it’s hard to look past Stockton as one of the best point guards we have ever seen.
These are Stockson’s assists per game for each season.
1984-85 Season: 5.1 APG
When Stockton was first drafted, he wasn’t welcomed with open arms. The Jazz took Stockton with the No. 16 overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. When his name was announced, thousands of Jazz fans were stunned in silence. Nonetheless, his stock rose quickly after the first few months of the draft.
For the first several seasons, he spent time backing up starting point guard Rickey Green. Stockton was worried he was going to last just one season in the league, so he never purchased a home in Salt Lake City. That changed when he played in all 82 games and set club rookie records for assists and steals in the season.
1985-86 Season: 7.4 APG
The following season, Stockton saw his playing time increase to 23.6 minutes per game. He also saw his points and assists increase too. It was the first season that Stockton and longtime teammate Karl Malone played together. Little did they know at the time, this would become the greatest duo in NBA history to not win a championship.
Malone’s first season saw him also win All-Rookie Team honors like Stockton did the previous year. It set the stage for a grand future. The Jazz won one more game this season and made the playoffs, but the team fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
1986-87 Season: 8.2 APG
After a few years of studying, Stockton became the starter to open the season. With that said, he platooned with Green, but the duo formed an intimidating set of point guards. Stockton averaged 7.9 points and 8.2 assists, while Green added 9.6 points and 6.7 assists. The two combined for 287 steals as well, while Stockton finished eighth in the league with 2.2 per game.
Before the season began, the team acquired Adrian Dantley, who was seen as a complement to Malone to handle the scoring duties. With Stockton running the show, the Jazz was seen as having a big three that could make a deep playoff push. However, the team was defeated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors.
1987-88 Season: 13.8 APG
This would be the year that Stockton would have full reigns to running the show. Before the season, the Charlotte Hornets selected Green in the expansion draft. Stockton, paired with Malone, would emerge as the top duo in the NBA. Malone averaged 27.7 points per game, while Stockton amassed 1,128 assists, breaking the old record set by Isiah Thomas in 1984-1985.
This was the season that Stockton began a string of nine straight assists titles. He also ranked third in steals and fourth in field goal percentage. He was becoming more than just a guard. He was a complete player. The Jazz set a record for wins with 47 and made the playoffs, even making the second round. In the end, the team was defeated by the Lakers in seven games. In Game 6, Stockton tied Magic Johnson’s record of 24 assists in a playoff game.
1988-89 Season: 13.6 APG
For the first time in his career, Stockton was selected to make the All-Star Game. He nearly won the All-Star Game MVP after finishing with 11 points and 17 assists, but the award was given to his teammate Karl Malone. Stockton was named All-Defensive Second team for leading the league in steals, and All-NBA Second Team for also leading the league in assists.
Stockton averaged 17.1 points per game, ranking third behind Malone and Thurl Bailey. The Jazz won the Midwest Division, set a new record for wins, and made the playoffs. Unfortunately, the team was defeated by the Warriors in three straight games. Chris Mullin led the sweep despite Stockton averaging 27.3 points and 13.7 assists in those games.
1989-90 Season: 14.5 APG
Stockton missed the first four games of his career but still broke his own single-season assists record. He compiled 1,134 assists and averaged an NBA record of 14.5 per game. By reaching the 1,000-assist mark for a third straight year, he became the first to ever accomplish that feat. This record would ultimately extend.
Stockton also shot better than 50% for a third straight season and compiled over 200 steals. He averaged 17.2 points per game and started at point guard in the All-Star Game. He made All-NBA Second Team again, but the Jazz slumped at the end of the year. The team was bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Suns in five games. Stockton averaged 15.0 points and 15.0 assists in those games.
1990-91 Season: 14.2 APG
With new shooting guard Jeff Malone, Stockton was responsible for getting not just one Malone the ball, but now two. Jeff averaged 18.6 points on 51% shooting, while Malone had another All-Star season. Stockton finished with 1,164 assists in 82 games, which remains a single-season NBA record. He also tied his career-high in points at 17.2 per game.
The Jazz qualified for the second round of the postseason by defeating the Suns. The team fell in the second round to the Trail Blazers though. Stockton averaged 18.2 points and 13.8 assists in the postseason.
1991-92 Season: 13.7 APG
For the fifth straight year, Stockton was the assists leader. He finished with 1,126 assists and beat out Michael Williams on the final day of the season to claim the steals title as well. It was the fourth straight season he made the All-Star Game. At the end of the season, he made All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive Second Team once again.
The Jazz was able to overcome a slow start to the season and finish 26-10 the final three months of the season. The Jazz finally broke their first and second-round curse by making the Conference Finals for the first time with Stockton and Malone leading the way. The team fell short of making the NBA Finals after losing to Portland in six games. In 16 playoff games, Stockton averaged 14.8 points, 13.6 assists, and 2.1 steals.
1992-93 Season: 12.0 APG
Stockton joined the 1992 Dream Team but was unable to play after suffering a broken leg. He still joined the United State team that won a Gold Medal and healed up to be ready for the start of the season. The Jazz also played host to the All-Star Game where Stockton shared MVP honors with Malone. Stockton contributed 15 assists, while Malone finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
During the season, the Jazz finished 47-35 and made their 10th straight trip to the playoffs. Stockton was named All-NBA Second Team as he averaged 15.1 points, 12.0 assists, and 2.4 steals. The Jazz was unable to get past the first round of the playoffs, losing to the SuperSonics in five games despite taking a 2-1 series lead.
1993-94 Season: 12.6 APG
By this time, Stockton began to etch his name with some elite players. Stockton became the third player in NBA history to record 9,000 career assists, joining Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. As well as this, Stockton enjoyed a successful season where he led the league in assists and finished fourth in steals while shooting nearly 53% from the field.
Stockton played in his sixth straight All-Star Game and was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. The Jazz made a run to the NBA Finals, going as far as the Western Conference Finals. However, the Houston Rockets defeated the Jazz in five games and ultimately won the NBA championship in the first year without Michael Jordan.
1994-95 Season: 12.3 APG
Stockton reached another major milestone this season. On February 1, 1995, he passed Magic Johnson as the all-time leader in assists. During the 129-98 victory, he finished with 16 assists over the Nuggets. About two and a half weeks later, he recorded his 10,000th career assists to become the first with over 10,000 in a career.
During the season, he also became the second player in NBA history to record 2,000 career steals after recording six steals in a loss to the Mavericks. The Jazz made their 12th straight trip to the playoffs and won a franchise-record 60 games. In the playoffs, the Jazz played the Rockets once again and held a 2-1 series lead. Unfortunately, the Rockets came back and eliminated the team on route to winning another NBA title.
1995-96 Season: 11.2 APG
The Jazz started the year off by winning 10 of their first 12 games. The team finished the season with a 55-27 record and finished second in the division. They would make their 13th straight trip to the playoffs on the heels of another record-breaking season from Stockton.
Stockton led the league in assists for the ninth straight season and broke the all-time steals record, which was held by Maurice Cheeks. Stockton finished with 14.7 points, 11.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Meanwhile, Malone moved into the top-10 in all-time scoring. In the playoffs, the Jazz made the Conference Finals but was eliminated by the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games.
1996-97 Season: 10.5 APG
Another record-breaking year saw the Jazz set a franchise-best 64-18 record and finally make the NBA Finals. Stockton finished second to Mark Jackson in the assists department, ending nearly a decade-long run of dominance. It was also the last time that Stockton averaged double-digit assists for a season.
Stockton made the All-Star Game as a starter and recorded 12 points and five assists. During the playoffs, Stockton averaged 16.9 points, 9.6 assists, and 1.7 steals. The Jazz was faced with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. In the Finals, Stockton hit a crucial late three-pointer in a 78-73 win in Game 4, which later became known as “The Shot.” In the end, the Jazz was defeated by the Bulls in six games.
1997-98 Season: 8.5 APG
Stockton missed the most games in a season in his career. Due to knee surgery, Stockton missed the first 18 games of the season. Once he came back, he finished fifth in the assists race by averaging 8.5 per game. He helped the Jazz finish with a regular-season NBA Best record of 62-20 and the Jazz marched back to the NBA Finals.
It was a replay of the previous season where the Jazz and Bulls took each other on. It was a replay of the previous Finals though. The Bulls defeated the Jazz in six games. The final gut-wrenching blow game in Game 6 when Michael Jordan stole the ball and made a jumper to make it 87-86. This would be the closest Stockton would get to winning an NBA title.
1998-99 Season: 7.5 APG
The following season was cut short due to the lockout. In the abbreviated 50-game schedule, the Jazz finished 37-13, which was tied for the best record in the NBA. The Jazz was tied with the San Antonio Spurs, who eventually won the NBA championship.
Some believe that if the Jazz hadn’t lost to the Trail Blazers in six games in the second round, this would have been the year the Jazz could have won it all. The Jazz would have matched up well against the Knicks. Instead, Tim Duncan would win the first of five championships with the Spurs.
1999-00 Season: 8.6 APG
Despite all the wear and tear, Stockton was not slowing down. With Stockton and Malone leading the team, the Jazz was the oldest team in the league. Both were selected to participate in the All-Star Game, which was his final appearance. The Jazz finished the season with a 66-27 record, making the playoffs for the 17th straight season.
Malone averaged 25.5 points and 9.5 rebounds and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Stockton was still finding Malone on the floor and averaged 12.1 points, 8.6 assists, and 1.7 steals, which almost felt like a normal stat line from Stockton. In The playoffs, the Jazz defeated the SuperSonics in five games but would be defeated by the Trail Blazers again in the postseason.
2000-01 Season: 8.7 APG
This would signal the start of the decline from the Jazz personnel. Stockton bounced back to finish second in the assists race, losing to Jason Kidd’s 9.8 of the Suns. The team finished second in the Midwest and won 53 games. With that said, the team lost nine of their final 13 games but made the playoffs for an 18th straight season. It was also the 16th consecutive winning season, which tied the Los Angeles Lakers record for winning seasons set between 1977-1992.
Malone’s points would dip to 23.2 points and he would make his final All-Star Game. In addition, Stockton’s points were decreasing too. The Jazz lost to the No. 5 seed Mavericks in five games after taking a 2-0 lead. That included losing Game 5 by one point by a score of 84-83.
2001-02 Season: 8.2 APG
During his 18th season, Stockton set a record for most seasons with the same franchise. He also became the 10th player in NBA history to play at the age of 40. During the season, Stockton reached his 15,000th career assist. The Jazz also set a new record for consecutive winning seasons when the team finished 44-38.
The Jazz made the playoffs for a 19th straight season with Stockton averaging 13.4 points, 8.2 assists, and 1.9 steals. The Jazz lost to the Sacramento Kings in four games in the first round. After this season, the end of an era was on the horizon.
2002-03 Season: 7.7 APG
For the last time, fans would witney the greatness of Stockton and Malone. Stockton finished his career after this season as one of the most decorative players ever. The Jazz made the playoffs for the 20th straight season, but once again failed to make it out of the first round after losing to the Kings in five games. After the season was over, Stockton retired and Malone left to join the Lakers in free agency.
Stockton finished his career playing in 1,504 games, which ranked third on the all-time list, trailing Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also finished his career with 19,711 points and number one in assists and steals all-time.
Career Average - 10.5 APG
Stockton continues to own several assists records today. His 1,164 single-season assists are the most ever, as well as his 14.5 average. He led the league nine straight times and also shared the record for assists in a playoff game with 24. His career total of 10.5 ranks second-most all time. The 28 assists he recorded in a single regular-season game are tied for third-most.
In his 19-year career, Stockton missed only 22 games, where 18 games during the 1997-1998 season due to an injured MCL. He was able to make it his NBA career sustaining only one major injury. Throughout his career, Stockton was consistent, even starting in the league on a winning team at the age of 41 years old. His 15,806 career assists stand alone and we may never see another player like him ever.