When the Utah Jazz drafted John Stockton 16th overall in the 1984 NBA draft, I assume they did not fully know what they got. I can only imagine how very much elated they were when they saw what stuff Stockton was made of. The Jazz would eventually reaped their huge return on investment as Stockton morphed into a 10-time NBA All-Star, a Top 50 Greatest NBA player, a Hall of Famer, a True-blue Utah Jazzman, the greatest true point guard of the NBA and the NBA All-time leader in total assists and steals, among others.
While he was also a noted “thief” in the hardcourt, it was his assists records that became the primary highlight of Stockton’s remarkable career. His almost “unbreakable” career assists totals, and four other assists marks made Stockton the most generous of the all NBA assistmen.
During his 19-year career with the Jazz, the longest tenure of a player for a single team before Kobe Bryant broke it this year, he amassed a total of 15,806 assists for an average of 10.5 while leading the league 9 consecutive times in regular season totals and averages, posted the highest assist per game at 14.5 during the 1989-1990 season and the highest total for a season at 1,164 during the 1990-1991 season. He also has the most assists in a game during the playoffs with 24 and tied for third for the most assists in a game for the regular season with 28.
Starting from the 1984-1985 season until the close of the 2002-2003 season, Stockton had the following yearly assists outputs: 415, 610, 670, 1128, 1118, 1134, 1164, 1126, 987, 1031, 1011, 916, 860, 543, 374, 703, 713, 674, and 629. That is a total of 15,806 for his career. His averages during these seasons were: 5.1, 7.4, 8.2, 13.8, 13.6 14.5, 14.2, 13.7, 12.0, 12.6, 12.3, 11.2, 10.5, 8.5, 7.5, 8.6, 8.7, 8.2 and 7.7, respectively for a career average of 10.5 assists per game he played.
His first two years are produced coming of the bench to supplant starting point guard Rickey Green. During the first season, traces of greatness as a playmaker and a swipe artist are evidently sprouting as he set the Jazz Rookie records for assists (415) and steals (108) despite playing only 18.3 minutes a game. His second season saw an increase in playing time to 23.6 minutes a game. He time-shared with Green in his third season averaging 22.7 minutes.
At the beginning of his fourth year, his apprenticeship for Utah came to an end when the Jazz apparently gave full point guard duties to Stockton by not protecting Green in an expansion draft. Green was chosen by the then Charlotte Hornets and “Stockton to Malone” began running in full throttle.
John quickly went to work and broke the 1,123 all-time assists in a regular season of Isaiah Thomas with his 1,128. He went to break his own record twice, 1,134 in the 1989-90 season, and the highest ever of 1,164 the next season. From then on, he went on to dominate the assist and steals categories of the NBA and was responsible of officially sending the Jazz to their first ever finals appearance by ending game six of the 1996-97 western conference finals with a three point shot over Houston Rocket Charles Barkley’s arms.
Stockton’s being the most generous Hardcourt Santa Claus is almost forever etched in stone. Among his records, I find the 14.5 assist per game as the “easiest” to break. Second in rank would be 1,164 season total. Then his two records of 9 consecutive years to lead the league in assists per game and 9 consecutive years to lead the league in total assists for a regular season come next.
There are fewer guarantees that an average, an all-time high, or leading the league could never be broken. If the right player who could duplicate his consistency and a compatible system should come along, the record could be in jeopardy.
The career totals, however, are a different story. I think they will remain indestructible. What makes his total numbers unbreakable is Stockton’s consistency coupled with his durability. In his career, he played a total of 1,504 games out of a possible 1,526. That’s the third most in the NBA All-time list behind Robert Parish’s 1,611 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 1560. That’s also 98.56% of the total possible regular season games in his 19 year career. That includes every game in 17 of those 19 seasons, starting in 1,300 of them.
This durability coupled with Stockton’s perfect skill set and be in Jerry Sloan’s pick and roll system would be a perfect combination for reaching the feat.
These attributes should make the totals safely ahead of any attempts to overtake them. His totals are over 3,700 more than his retired closest pursuer, Jason Kidd. Andre Miller, the closest active player is 9th in the all-time list with 8,475. Chris Paul (7,136) has not yet even past half of his total output.
Further, there is a prevailing opinion on the length of the season to protect durability of players. Lebron James was quoted at the start of the 2014-2015 season to be in favor of lowering the number of games played by each team. Greg Popovich started the trend of sitting down his starters to rest them in some regular season games and a handful of coaches followed. The NBA also experimented in the 2014 pre-season on a 44-minute game, four minutes lesser than the existing 48-minute game.
Given that the record is already too daunting to overtake even simply just by looking at it, implementation of moves shortening the season will just make Stockton’s record almost near untouchable.