The adage "don't judge a book by its cover" perfectly applies to legendary guard John Stockton. The man still leads the league in both assists and steals. But even more than the numbers, Stockton's basketball cred comes from the words of his peers.
Guarding Stockton 94 feet
Gary Payton is the latest to share his thoughts on Stockton. The Glove, known for his defensive abilities, boldly admitted that he had a tougher time guarding Stockton than Michael Jordan. It seems like a statement meant to rouse controversy. But Payton defended his argument pretty well.
"I got to guard him 94 feet. I got to think about coming off of picks, he's throwing passes, he's coming back trying to steal basketballs, he's always moving, he's taking charges on me, he's doing a lot of things. I have to always focus on him," Payton said on Vlad TV.
Those who grew up watching Stockton play would easily confirm Payton's statements. Stockton didn't just thrive because Karl Malone was there. The guard did not need the Mail Man to do well. His small 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame looks deceiving. Switch him to bigger foes, and he'd quickly snatch the ball or take charge. On offense, he'd just out-speed a bigger but slower defender. Even if an opposing player got the best out of Stockton, as Payton said, the Jazz guard did so many other things on the floor.
Irreparable damage in just 34 minutes
Payton further beefed up his argument on why Stockton was tougher to defend. Legendary head coach Jerry Sloan played him for limited minutes. This meant that Stockton was sent to the bench regularly. And when he entered the floor, his legs were fresh, his body well-rested and ready to wreak havoc again.
"He only played 34 minutes. That's what Jerry Sloan played him. And then when you look up, he shot the ball 10 times, he made eight. He shot seven free throws, he made all seven. Next thing you know, you look up he got 16 assists. Then you think about it and you say 'Dang, he got five, six rebound, and he got five steals.' And I look up there and I say 'He got 27, 16, 5, 5.' I can't deal with that. And we getting beat by 20. But I'm saying I'm gonne play the whole game and I got 30 and I'm trying to struggle and we still lose about 20"
Gary Payton, VladTV
Payton's story reminds us to appreciate the greats — the masters that paved the way for today's stars. Before the Ja Morant's, Chris Paul's, Stephen Curry's, Trae Young's, and what have you, there was John Stockton — the real Point God.