About the Author
Jody Genessy is an award-winning journalist who covers the Utah Jazz for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been with the paper since 1995, writing about everything from high school and college sports to Olympic hockey. This is his first book.Frank Layden is a former head coach and general manager with the Jazz organization.He resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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Stockton to Malone
Just as with peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs and baseball games, Adam and Eve, cookies and milk — not to forget fries and fry sauce for our Beehive State friends — two things are forever linked when it comes to the Utah Jazz.
John Stockton and Karl Malone.
They had statues erected in their honor on the arena plaza. They had streets — and oodles of babies — named after them. They were immortalized in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, listed among the 50 greatest players in NBA history, and won two gold medals with Team USA.
They had thousands of highlight plays — you can almost still hear Hot Rod Hundley screaming "Stockton to Malone!" — including expertly placed passes and earth-shattering dunks and did for the pick-and-roll what Elvis Presley did for rock 'n' roll.
Not only that, but No. 12 (the all-time leader in assists and steals) and No. 32 (the second-leading scorer in NBA history) earned the adoration of generations of basketball fans in and out of the state of Utah for leading the Jazz to the playoffs 18 times, going to the Western Conference Finals five times, appearing in the NBA Finals twice, playing through countless injuries and illnesses, and combining to score what Stockton estimated to be a "zillion" points during their time together from 1985 to 2003.
That included the assist that gave Stockton the all-time record, surpassing Magic Johnson's mark of 9,221 on February 1, 1995. Though the bounce pass ricocheted higher than usual, Malone corralled the ball and then nailed a mid-range jumper for Stockton's 11 first-half dime and most historic assist. "He's been responsible for so many [of my assists], it does seem fitting," Stockton told reporters that night. "Like I've said all along, this isn't my record. These guys have had to make the shots, and Karl has made a zillion of them."
It only makes sense then that they share the top billing and first chapter in this book about the Jazz franchise.
Here's the neat thing: 15 years after they played their final basketball game together — in the 2003 playoffs against the Sacramento Kings — Stockton and Malone continue to be best of friends off the court. They even share a common bond of owning old-school flip phones when the rest of the technologically savvy world has jumped on the smartphone bandwagon. Though Stockton has settled back in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, and Malone returned to Rushton, Louisiana, the two occasionally get together to support family events or simply to hang out and reminisce. Malone even made it out to Utah to watch Stockton's son, David, suit up for the Jazz in the spring of 2018.
Likewise, Stockton visited Louisiana during the 2017 football season to support The Mailman's son, KJ, play for LSU. That led to a classic story Malone told to a Los Angeles radio station that highlights the tenor of their relationship.
As the story goes, Malone and Stockton were visiting the Mississippi River levee in southern Louisiana, and the two of them decided, "Let's just go have a walk, bro." Though they're in their 50s and no longer professional athletes, the two Hall of Famers remain as competitive as ever. "I wasn't gonna tell him that my left knee was hurting," Malone admitted. "And he wasn't gonna tell me that his back was hurting, and we just walked each other there into the ground."
They walked up and down the levee three and a half times —"solving all the world issues"— when Malone finally looked at Stockton and said, "Bro, for real. What the hell? What the hell are we trying to prove at 54, 55 years old?"
One thing they did prove? They don't recover quite as quickly as they used to when they played 100 games a year. "When we got back, I don't think we moved for three and a half hours," Malone said. "Hell, I couldn't."
But Stockton made sure to move the ball to Malone during their distinguished careers. Considered by many to be the greatest pure point guard ever, Stockton played in 1,504 of a possible 1,526 games in 19 seasons. And Malone, a two-time NBA MVP, only missed 10 games in his 18 seasons with the Jazz. (Some Jazz fans will tell you he was cursed once he left for the Los Angeles Lakers, but that's another story.)
They couldn't quite get over the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen hump for an elusive NBA title, but this pair was certainly one of the greatest dynamic duos in sports for two fun decades.
Their competitiveness happened away from the basketball arena, too. Larry H. Miller, the late Jazz owner, once told the Deseret News a story that depicted how hard the two worked to fine-tune their bodies. "One day Karl told John that his body fat had been measured at 2.7 percent," Miller said. "John just kind of stood there, smirking. Finally, Karl asked him what that was about. John just said, '2.3.'"
During Stockton's retirement ceremony in June 2003, Hundley shared a fun anecdote that showed the good-ribbing nature of their friendship. Often a prankster behind the scenes, Stockton would jokingly get impatient while the team's idling bus waited for its final passenger, Malone. "We don't need The Mailman," Stockton would occasionally shout, as Hundley recounted in a Deseret News story. "We can win without him." As soon as Malone would board the bus, however, Hundley said Stockton would tell his favorite pass partner, "Hey, Karl — all the guys wanted to leave you. I said, 'We're not going anywhere without The Mailman.'"
For a couple of decades, that was the case on the hardwood. Former NBA All-Star Nick Van Exel joked that there was only one way to stop this competitive combo's pick-and-roll: "Yeah, I got a way to defend it. Bring a bat to the game and kill one of them."
Praising them in more positive terms, former Seattle SuperSonics star Shawn Kemp told The Players' Tribune that the Jazz duo inspired them. "'Stockton and Malone' is what me and Gary [Payton] used to always say in practice. They were the guys we looked at, first and foremost, when it came to trying to polish our game. And it's funny: those are the two guys where you can't mention one of their names without automatically thinking about the other."
Another old foe, Charles Barkley, jokingly told Jerry Sloan how good his teams would have been if he'd only had a power forward like him, but the legendary Jazz coach knew where his bread was buttered. "I thought I was a great coach until we lost these guys," Sloan said. "I was the most lucky guy in the world. I had the opportunity to coach two guys that's willing to pay the price of being good every day."
He also credits the two all-time NBA greats for helping him secure a spot in the Hall. "They could be [here] definitely without me. They would have made it on their own. There isn't any question about that," Sloan said. "I just happened to be here and have a chance to coach them."
Sloan took a quick second and rephrased that. "I don't think I really coached them," he said. "I just kind of watched them play [and] got a good seat every night."CHAPTER 2
Because of John Stockton's rare precision, great vision, generous pass-first mentality, and durability — not to forget sharing the court with talented guys like Adrian Dantley, Karl Malone, Darrell Griffith, and Jeff Hornacek — the longtime Utah Jazz point guard compiled more assists than any other NBA player even dreamed of dishing out.
The Picasso of the pick-and-roll also had defensive timing and tenacity that helped him set the league's steals record. His unflappable demeanor and competitive nature led to him never shy away from setting a hard pick on much-bigger athletes or back down to on-court bullies like Dennis Rodman. Then again, some considered him the physical aggressor (a nicer way to say dirty player).
Throw in his consistency, leadership, relentless pursuit, passion for winning, and loyalty, and it's no wonder why Stockton is arguably the most beloved sports figure in the history of Utah. Utahns, who booed in 1984 when the Jazz surprisingly used their No. 16 draft pick to select this relatively unknown playmaker from Spokane, Washington — a local kid who went to Gonzaga before Gonzaga was cool — will never admit their off-based judgment.
The eventual Hall of Famer also had admirers outside of the Beehive State. John Wooden was so impressed by the Jazz guard's style — of play, not fashion — that the legendary coach claimed Utah was the only NBA team he watched. "Well, let me put it this way: I watch John Stockton of the Utah Jazz. He's just my favorite player to watch in the pros," the late Wooden once said in an interview with the Daily Press. "The way he and Malone work that screen-and-roll, I've never seen at any time players work it quite as well as they do. And that's because of the abilities of each one."
Charles Barkley, Stockton's friend and Dream Team teammate, was also a big fan. In one visit to Utah in 1996, he jokingly interviewed Stockton's oldest son, Michael, and got the six-year-old to claim he was his favorite NBA player (after his dad, of course). Though the Round Mound teased the younger Stockton that his dad went to "Gorgonzola Cheese College" in an entertaining locker room exchange, Barkley also offered some free life advice: "Get 20 points and 10 rebounds [and] pass the ball like your dad and you won't have to worry about your education." He jokingly added, "Go to Auburn. They paid very well."
Barkley gave Stockton the highest of praise in an NBA.com article, saying, "John Stockton is the perfect point guard. There has never been a pure point guard who made better basketball decisions with the ball — ever."
You won't get Jerry Sloan to object. Around the time Stockton and Sloan were inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, the longtime Jazz coach thought New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's description of retiring linebacker Tedy Bruschi as being "a perfect player" was a perfect way to articulate how he felt about Stockton. "I'd never heard that before, but it certainly would represent John Stockton in almost every aspect of basketball," Sloan said. "When you say he's 'a perfect player,' [it was] the way he handled himself, the way he prepared himself to play, all those things."
Nobody saw that more than Sloan. Through an elite work ethic and impeccable conditioning, Stockton achieved an abundance of records, milestones, and success despite playing with a small-by-NBA-standards body and a deceptive choirboy appearance that looked anything but intimidating (scary Stockton glares notwithstanding). The 6'1", 175-pound athlete had durability and bounce-back ability, helping him play every game in 17 of 19 seasons for a total of 1,504 appearances in 1,526 regular-season contests. He was a productive player even up until he retired at the age of 41. His two trademark statistics are mind-boggling: 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. He also scored 19,711 points, averaging 13.1 per game on 51.5 percent shooting.
Stockton's preferred length of uniform bottoms — his infamous Jazz-hued Daisy Dukes-style short shorts — were the, ahem, butt of many jokes, though some segments of the population weren't complaining about them. But his game sure wasn't made fun of. The only complaint some Jazz fans had was that he didn't shoot enough. That didn't stop Sloan from being as enthralled with Stockton as he was with tilling and tractors. "John's just an unusual guy. He loved to play. He loved to compete," Sloan said. "He's second to none as far as I'm concerned as far as wanting to play and proving that."
Wooden and Sloan might have really been impressed with another Stockton had they been in the family's backyard when No. 12 was growing up. Stockton said it took him about a thousand times of going mano-a-mano with older brother Steve before he finally came out victorious. He added with a laugh while telling that story at his Hall of Fame announcement ceremony, "One in 1,000 isn't a great record."
Stockton's record improved drastically after that. He started making a name for himself with the Zags. After college he earned an invitation to try out for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. It was at that camp where his pro career and friendship with Malone began to take off. Stockton didn't make the cut for that Olympic team, but he caught the attention of the Jazz who drafted him despite already having an All-Star point guard on their roster in Rickey Green.
Filip Bondy of hoopshype.com wrote about the Jazz's mysterious pick and TV announcer Al Albert's stunned reaction during a loaded draft that also included Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Michael Jordan. "Not many know about John Stockton," Albert said after the Jazz's surprise selection that received Bronx cheers back in Utah. "His name is certainly not on the lips of the fans here in New York ... Frank Layden is certainly sticking his neck out."
Stockton got a kick out of his relative anonymity and the speculation some had about the Jazz snatching up a backup point guard in the first round. "The best thing about the draft," Stockton later said, "was watching the guys on TV flipping through their notes trying to find something on me."
Some might be surprised to learn that Stockton came off the bench for three years behind Green — a gradual progression and worthwhile experience he believes would benefit more young point guards — but he gave announcers plenty of material after that. In 1987–88, his first season as a starter, Stockton passed his way to an NBA single-season assists record, finishing with 1,128 to sneak past Isiah Thomas' previous mark by five assists. Stockton led the league in assists for the next eight seasons.
The Jazz won their second Midwest Division title in 1989, which was Stockton's second season as a starter and Sloan's first year as the team's head coach after replacing Layden a month in. The Jazz didn't always win their division, but they always made the playoffs during Stockton's 19 years. Many postseason appearances ended in frustration and early exits until Stockton hit a monumental three-pointer over the surging Barkley that sent the Jazz to their first NBA Finals in 1997. NBA.com's John Schumann claimed that basket in the Western Conference Finals in Game 6 at Houston is "easily the biggest shot in Jazz history."
Stockton and company couldn't clear the next hurdle — a 6'6" hurdle who happened to be the best player in the game — but that doesn't diminish Stockton's accomplishments. It's not like Stockton was the only player whose team couldn't overcome Air Jordan and the Chicago Bulls anyway. Danny Ainge even reportedly complimented Stockton for competing harder than anyone in basketball, including Jordan.
Sloan loved his will to win and work, too, and that Stockton faced his opponents. This skill put him in a position to break down his foe and make a play. He also marveled at how the mighty-mite would work his way out of double-team situations. "Now he's not 6'10", 6'9", or 6'8". He's kind of a small guy," Sloan admitted. "And to be double-teamed the way he was and to get out of it as well as he did is hard to imagine. But he had terrific hands, terrific eyes, and all those things are necessary."
John Stockton is adored by Utah Jazz fans and admired around the sports world — and for good reason. He was a terrific athlete who overcame the disadvantage of being small in a big man's league, using his competitiveness, feisty on-court presence, unimpeachable work ethic, vision, determination, and basketball talent to carve out a two-decade-long Hall of Fame career.
But Stockton was so worried he wouldn't last in the NBA that he held out for an extra $5,000 in his rookie season. And in an era where cars and jewelry seem to be the norm for NBA rookies, Stockton's first purchase as a player didn't occur until he had been in Salt Lake for four months. The Spokane, Washington, native purchased a television for his one-bedroom apartment so he could watch the Super Bowl.CHAPTER 3
It took thousands of hammer dunks — many with a trademark pose — and countless pick-and-roll plays, fade-away jumpers, and softly flicked free throws to score 36,928 points over the course of a career. And that's exactly what Karl Malone did en route to becoming the second-leading scorer in NBA history.
While punishing rims and snapping nets for a living, Malone led the small-market Utah Jazz to two NBA Finals, 11 50-win seasons, and six division titles. He made the All-Star Game 14 times, claimed residency on the All-NBA first team from 1989 to 1999, and was a three-time All-Defensive first teamer. His illustrious career also included multiple NBA records (including 11 straight seasons with 2,000 points), a pair of NBA MVP awards, two Olympic gold medals, and enough eye-popping statistics compiled during a 19-year career to fill up one of the diesels he owned back in the day.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "100 Things Jazz Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2019 Jody Genessy.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Frank Layden ix
1 Stockton to Malone 1
2 John Stockton 5
3 The Mailman 10
4 Jerry Sloan 15
5 The Shot 19
6 The 1997 NBA Finals 24
7 Larry H. Miller 27
8 Frank Layden 31
9 Pistol Pete 34
10 Hot Rod Hundley 37
11 1983-84: The Team with Heart 41
12 The 1998 NBA Finals 43
13 Adrian Dantley 46
14 The 1988 Western Conference Semifinals 49
15 Jeff Hornacek 52
16 Dr. Dunkenstein 57
17 Donovan Mitchell 60
18 Hull of Famers 65
19 The Jazz Nickname 69
20 Sloan's Resignation 72
21 Mark Eaton 76
22 Gordon Hayward 79
23 All-Stats 84
24 Deron Williams 87
25 2004: Overachievers 91
26 Miracle in Miami 94
27 Paul Millsap 97
28 2007: An Unexpected Run 99
29 Matt Harpring 102
30 Banner Careers 105
31 Rudy Gobert 108
33 Karl Malone vs 112
33 Greg Ostertag 114
34 Legacy Trust 117
35 AK-47 120
36 Hayward's Fourth of July Fireworks 124
37 Visit the Statues 128
38 The Beginnings in New Orleans 131
39 Nicknames 135
40 Phil Johnson 141
41 Retiring No. 1,223 143
42 Triple OT Thriller 147
43 Carlos Boozer 149
44 Mehmet Okur 152
45 Rickey Green 156
46 Sundiata Gaines 159
47 Griffith Goes Wild 162
48 Gather at the J-Note 164
49 Cruise Down John Stockton and Karl Malone Drive 165
50 Quin Snyder 166
51 Short Shorts 171
52 All-Star Game 174
53 The Olympics 176
54 Eat at Eaton's Restaurant 179
55 Malone's All-Star Snub 181
56 Home, Sweet Home 183
57 Bryon Russell 188
58 The Greatest Comeback 193
59 Tyrone Corbin 195
60 Jazz Villains 198
61 Thud Bailey 205
62 Tough Jerry 207
63 Silly Moments 212
64 Derrick Favors 217
65 Bear 220
66 Joe Ingles 221
67 Jazz vs. LeBron 224
68 Ron Boone 229
69 "How 'Bout This Jazz?" 230
70 Thirty Pieces of Silver 233
71 Derek Fisher 236
72 Front-Office Personnel 240
73 Watch Summer League Games 246
74 The Longest Loss 249
75 Rookie Rituals 253
76 Hood and Johnson 257
77 Donate to a Jazz Charity 259
78 Sloanisms 262
79 Trading Places 265
80 Joking John Stockton 267
81 Let Jeremy Dunk 271
82 Karl's Odd Jobs 273
83 Miller vs. Denver Fans 278
84 Team Uniforms 280
85 Jazz vs. Kobe 285
86 Visit Jack & Dan's 289
87 From Hot Rod to Boler and Locke 291
88 Big Al and His Big Bed 295
89 Rodney King Riots 298
90 Places to Eat 301
91 Enjoy the #Nightlife 303
92 International Roster 306
93 JP Gibson 309
94 Follow the Jazz on Social Media 311
95 Trevor Booker 314
96 Funny Frank Layden 316
97 Utah Stars 319
98 The City of Utah 321
99 Truck Robinson 324
100 What If? 326