Over the years, the game has massively evolved that sometimes, we don't even know who the point guard is among the five guys playing on the court. Nowadays, even 7-footers can dribble, run the ball down the court, and shoot treys. But back in the 90s, those tasks mainly belong to the playmakers.
Of course, there were those who stood out in performing their job. These guys constantly delivered every night to help their teams win and dominate their competition. Enough for them to deserve a spot in the Mount Rushmore of point guards in that era.
Every era has an array of “point gods” that became notable on basketball’s biggest stage. But if we’re talking about the 90s, the ultimate point god title rightfully belongs to Utah Jazz legend John Stockton.
"Stock" rose to prominence in the late 80s, but only a few would refute that he’s arguably the most efficient playmaker of the 90s. He rarely boasted about his game, and he let his accolades do the talking. After playing 19 seasons with the Jazz, Stockton ended his illustrious with 10 All-Star appearances, 11 All-NBA selections, nine assists titles, and two steals titles to his name.
One of the best testimonials that prove how good Stockton was during his prime came from his 90s rival and fellow NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton.
"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,” Payton said of Stockton.
Alongside his long-time Jazz co-star Karl Malone, Stockton reached the NBA Finals twice, in 1997 and 1998, respectively. However, the legendary duo failed to win a single title as Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls prevailed in both years.
Unlike Stockton, Payton likes running his mouth, but the good thing about it though is he can always back it up. During his prime, Payton also lit up the box score like Stockton. However, what “The Glove” had in his bag that very few point guards had, was his lockdown defense.
Payton spent his best seasons with the Seattle Supersonics alongside fellow All-Star Shawn Kemp. Like Stockton and the Jazz, Payton and the Sonics also had their shot at the title in the 90s. However, the Bulls were just too much for the NBA Finals debutants in the 1996 championship. Nevertheless, Payton was still among the best floor generals in the 90s.
During his 17-year NBA career, “The Glove” collected one NBA title (which he won with the Miami Heat in 2006), nine All-Stars, nine All-NBA selections, nine All-Defensive selections, one steals title, and the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Before Allen Iverson and Kyrie Irving dazzled us with their sick crossover moves, it was Tim Hardaway who raised the bar on the famous move in the 90s, which explains why he earned the moniker “Mr. Crossover.” But apart from that, “Tim Bug” was also exceptionally athletic, especially for a point guard.
Like most of his peers, Hardaway also had the ability to score in bunches and dish it out to his teammates on a regular basis. And though he neither won a championship nor played in the NBA Finals, Hardaway is a legend in not just one but two franchises.
In the first half of the 90s, “Tim Bug” was the “T” in the Golden State Warriors “Run TMC.” And in the second half, he became the primary backcourt of the fearless Miami Heat squad that once dominated the East.
After a few impressive seasons with the Suns, K.J. finally came close to winning his first championship in 1993. Along with Charles Barkley, Johnson was a key figure in the Phoenix squad that had the best record in the league that season. However, the Suns fell short-handed against Jordan and the Bulls as well.
In 1998, Johnson left the Suns and decided to retire due to injury. After a full-season hiatus, he made an epic comeback, but he was no longer the prolific backcourt he once was.
While this Mount Rushmore of point guards may not please all NBA fans, one thing we can't deny is that back in the 90s, Stockton Payton, Hardaway, and Johnson ruled the backcourt.