Kenny Smith tells a story of how he underestimated John Stockton in his first game against him.
Never underestimate Stockton

Kenny Smith tells a story of how he underestimated John Stockton in his first game against him.

Even though he is an all-time leader in both assists and steals, it somehow feels like John Stockton is still, to this day, one of the most underappreciated players in NBA history. Despite being one of the most consistent NBA history players, he never won a championship with the Utah Jazz playing alongside his long-term partner in crime, Karl Malone. Former NBA players who competed against Stockton have nothing but respect for him and how he played the game despite his appearance, sometimes suggesting otherwise.

Former NBA player and current NBA analyst Kenny Smith remembered his first game against Stockton in which he made a terrible mistake by underestimating him. In the ’80s, players haven’t had that much exposure as they do now, so Smith admits he never saw Stockton play even though he heard about him.

I just remember coming into the league my first year, and we are playing Utah Jazz, and Rickey Green was the starting point guard, and a guy by the name of John Stockton was coming off the bench. He hasn’t started yet. I looked at him coming from Gonzaga, and because I was from the University of North Carolina, I haven’t had much opportunity to see him play.

Kenny Smith, via Game Time

Stockton came off the bench in that game, and when Smith saw him, he thought he looks like a guy selling insurance since he didn’t look like a typical basketball player of that era. According to Smith, it didn’t take long for Stockton to make his presence felt on the court and made Smith eat his words and learn you can’t judge a book by its covers.

I walked in there and said, ‘that guy can’t guard me, he looks like he is selling insurance. He was so small, he had this tight suit on, and that wasn’t the fashion. And then in the game, he has 20 points and 20 assists, and you learn who these guys are.

Kenny Smith, via Game Time

If you take a closer look at the stat sheet from that season, the story is slightly different from what Smith said, but considering it happened 30 years ago, no wonder he mixed things up a bit. In his first game against the Jazz, Stockton did come off the bench, but he didn’t have a 20 point and 20 assists game. He scored 19 points, had five assists, and seven steals in only 22 minutes of action. The Jazz won that game against the Sacramento Kings.

However, in his second game against Smith and the Kings that season, John Stockton had himself a monster game with 21 points and 19 assists. That is probably the game Smith was referring to when it comes to Stockton’s impact on the actual game. Interestingly enough, the Jazz lost that game against the Sacramento Kings.