Stockton and Malone: A Tandem For the Ages

Utah Jazz Duo Makes History, Both Players Officially Retired

They may have not won a championship together or make the nightly highlights of ESPN’s Sportscenter, but the Utah Jazz duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone were combination that for 18 seasons were consistent, hardworking and that thought of the team instead of their individual accolades. It is almost fitting that the duo that was drafted one year apart would retire from the NBA one year apart.

When Malone announced his retirement Sunday afternoon at a press conference at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, it came one year after John Stockton announced his retirement just a year ago.

How good was this point guard, power forward combination? In their 18 seasons together they helped lead Utah to five Midwest Division Titles, 12 regular seasons of 50 wins or more, including back-to-back regular seasons of 64 wins in 1996-97 a franchise record back in 1997 and 62 regular season wins in 1998. Both years, the Jazz made it to the NBA Finals, but ran into Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and lost in six games.

Malone had another chance to win a championship last season, but the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games. Despite having a chance to sign with the San Antonio Spurs after meeting with them last week, he decided on retirement.

They played together with the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Earvin Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley on the original United States basketball “Dream Team” that won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. They also played on the second “Dream Team” that won a gold medal in the 1996 games in Atlanta, GA.

Some other accolades that they shared together were being named as two of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History.” They also share Most Valuable Player Honors at the 1993 NBA All-Star Game in front of their home fans at the Delta Center.

This dynamic duo also has missed combined a total of 66 games in their 18 years together.

Malone, who played last season with the Los Angles Lakers suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss 39 games, the first time in his NBA career he had missed more than two games in a season. They played, even when they were hurt.

Stockton, back in 1997-98 season, missed the first 18 games recovering from an off-season knee surgery.

Individually, Stockton and Malone piled together a resume of statistics that probably will never be duplicated in the NBA for a long time.

According to an ESPN.com article, Stockton, who was drafted No. 16 overall in 1984, finished his career as the all-time leader in steals with 3,265 and in assists with 15,806. He also, according to 2004-05 NBA Guide by Sports News led the NBA in assists per game for nine straight years (1987-96), beating out former Celtic great point guard Bob Cousy, who lead the league in assists per game eight straight years (1952-60).

As for Malone, his career resume, according to NBA.com, includes ranking second all-time in NBA history to Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in both scoring with 36, 928 points, field goals made with 13, 335 and minutes played with at 53, 479. The 6-9 forward drafted 13th in 1985 is second all-time in free throws made with 9,787 and seventh in rebounding with 14, 601. He also made the All-Star team 14 times and was First Team All-NBA 11 straight years, an NBA record.

The Jazz before Stockton and Malone were drafted and when Stockton was a rookie back up to Willie Green, they made the playoffs both years. Together, Malone and Stockton led the Jazz to 18 straight appearances in the post-season, 20 straight overall. The only other team to make the playoffs in more consecutive seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers, who made 21 consecutive playoff appearances (1982-03).

Perhaps the biggest reason that Stockton and Malone have had so much success is because they had the same coach who ran the same system for the entire time that they were together.

In an era where NBA head coach’s job is never secure, Jerry Sloan, who has coached the Jazz since 1988 has been there for all of the success, trials and tribulations that Stockton and Malone have gone through.

He praised the fact that both of them have a work ethic that allowed them to play at a high level every night.

“For 18 years, Karl, along with John Stockton, was the centerpiece of the Utah Jazz,” said the longest tenured head coach with one team in NBA history, 17 years.

 As much as sports writers, columnists and sports experts talk about how the two best players to ever play their position with some of the best all-time numbers always talked about how they never were able to win a ring.

As Malone stated to NBA on ABC Sports Analysts Mike Tirico, Steve Snapper Jones and Bill Walton after his retirement press conference, even though he does not have a ring, he had a career is very satisfied with.

“You guys, the so called experts will determine about the rings, Malone said. “Me as a person; I know one thing, every night I stepped on this floor, I gave it everything I had.” 

This was a special tandem that played with the team concept and not for individual recognition, even though that did come to them.

 John Stockton before he had his jersey retired a year ago had a downtown street named in his honor, according to an ESPN.com article. That’s not bad for a guy that only wanted to stay in the NBA long enough to buy a house.

When Malone decided to retire, as he told Tirico, Jones and Walton it was because after the passing of his mother a year ago, he lost nearly 60 percent of his mental capacity to play basketball and that if he could not bring the mental package to the Spurs.    

They may have not won an NBA Title together, but they made a name for a franchised through their famed play the pick-and-roll, which paved their way to individual success and team success. The only thing left for this duo to have done is to be placed in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.