When you think about the best duo’s that played in the NBA, Karl Malone and John Stockton are up there on any list. The two were almost tailor-fit for each other. A cerebral point guard who is fundamentally sound and deceptively good on defense paired with a strong as bull power forward who can score anyway he wants to when he’s in his comfort zone would win at least a championship ring, but that wasn’t the case.
Hall of Famers without a ring
Stats-wise, Malone, and Stockton were two of the best to play in their positions. Karl was the epitome of what power forward should be: a combination of skills, strength, and fundamentals. He rebounded well, defended well, and delivered in the clutch, hence, The Mailman moniker.
Meanwhile, Stockton was the original point god. He topped the NBA’s all-time list in the assists and steals department. John was never flashy or athletic, but he was a steady presence at the point. He used his superb thinking skills to get ahead of the opponents, forcing them to make turnovers or put up bad shots.
John Stockton and Karl Malone got enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The duo ran the pick-and-roll to perfection. They rode the play en route to Malone, scoring 36,928 points in his career and Stockton dishing out 15,806 assists in his career. The Utah Jazz legends won Olympic gold medals and made the Finals twice but failed to win a ring because of one man.
Michael Jordan denied Stockton and Malone a ring
Jordan was the single, greatest force that the Malone-Stockton tandem could not overcome. Twice they met in the finals; twice, the title went to Chicago Bulls. If Jordan did not stand in their way, the Jazz would have won at least one title.
However, Isiah Thomas noted in an interview published on the Basketball Time Machine Youtube page that he thought Utah had everything, but they only had one weakness, not named Michael Jordan:
“I thought they had everything that it took to win a championship. I thought they had the system. I thought they had the players, the toughness, the defensive-minded, and everything but I always felt like Malone really was the weak link because he wasn’t a good foul shooter. Had he been a good foul shooter they would have beat Chicago.”Isiah Thomas, Basketball Time Machine
Malone was a career 74 percent free-throw shooter. It’s ironic that he was nicknamed The Mailman but failed to deliver the needed free throws down the stretch. Against the Bulls in the Finals, he averaged 67.7 percent from the charity stripe. Thomas may have a point there.
The list of Hall of Famers who Jordan denied a championship includes Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, and Gary Payton. Like the ones mentioned, Karl and John were all unfortunate to meet the Bulls at their prime. Being ringless is not a crime, and it should not take anything away from what they were able to contribute to the sport.