“There's a large group of people that traveled a thousand miles, some from Hawaii, some from Alaska, just to support me. You almost started laughing - I think they actually came to see Michael.” John Stockton made the entire Basketball Hall of Fame laugh with that line while being inducted in 2009. He couldn't escape Michael Jordan even for a day, as they were inducted that same year.
Stockton's career will always be marked by Michael Jordan. There's a reason Stockton and Malone are always top 5 in "best players that never won a title" rankings. They were spectacular on the court and just had the bad luck of playing in the era of the greatest. But unlike most players, Stockton was never in awe of Michael Jordan. To him, he was just another guy.
Don't get it twisted; Stockton never underestimated Michael Jordan - if anyone knows how great he is, it's Stockton and Malone. The ultimate testament of your quality is the fact Michael Jordan had to bring the very best of his game to beat you - that says something. Making a documentary about that season, when MJ left everything on the court, wouldn't make much sense with John Stockton in it. It almost didn't happen.
“I finally got (Stockton) on the phone after like two years of chasing him. (Stockton) said, ‘I don’t want to be a part of a Michael Jordan puff piece.'”
Jason Hehir, Sportscasting
Two years wasn't an exaggeration. The Last Dance premiered on April 19th, 2020. They interviewed John Stockton on March 10th, a little over a month before that. A day after the interview, on March 11th, Rudy Gobert tested positive, and the NBA season shut down.
“On Tuesday, March 10, we interviewed him in Spokane. It was so deep into this COVID crisis that we decided that I shouldn’t fly to Spokane because we’re afraid that flight would get grounded indefinitely. So we had someone from out there, a stringer from Seattle drive in and do that interview.”
Jason Hehir, Sportscasting
Stockton wasn't the only player who was reluctant to participate in the documentary. Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, and Reggie Miller all had reservations with the same issue - it was a doc about MJ produced by MJ. They took time and asked a lot of questions to make sure it won't be a "Michael Jordan puff piece." Was it? That's for you to decide.
As it comes to Stockton, he had more than one joke ready for his Hall of Fame speech. You know what they say - there's a grain of truth in every joke.
“You know, he makes one big shot, and everyone thinks he's cool. I don't get it.”
John Stockton's Hall of Fame speech
I wouldn't call "The Last Dance" a puff piece, but I wouldn't call it a documentary either. In line with the entertainment business of the NBA, it'd say it's a combo of legacy building for a very competitive man and a 10-part commercial for Nike and the NBA.
That being said, I recommend it to anyone who asks and will probably watch it again this year.