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News » Call to the Hall: Stockton and Sloan named to Hall of Fame

Call to the Hall: Stockton and Sloan named to Hall of Fame

Call to the Hall: Stockton and Sloan named to Hall of Fame
Finishing a dazzling career as the NBA's all-time assists leader certainly played a huge role in why John Stockton was voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. How fitting. In classic Stockton style, the legendary Jazz point guard dished out praise like oh-so-many crisply delivered passes to teammates after he was introduced ? along with his old coach, Jerry Sloan, Bulls star Michael Jordan, Spurs great David Robinson and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer ? as part of the Hall's Class of 2009 on Monday in Detroit.

Stockton finished his 19-year Jazz journey with a mind-boggling, NBA-record 15,806 assists, but he says the biggest ones, the ones that really made this career-crowning honor possible, never ended up in the boxscores or statistics. The biggest assists didn't go to Karl Malone. Nope. According to Stockton, they came to him from influential people who surrounded and supported the gutsy guard over the years from Washington to Utah. "The first thought to come to mind when I heard the announcement," Stockton said, "were all the people that had a part in it, at least in my life ? the teammates, the coaches, the teachers, my parents, my family, worthy opponents. "Everybody's had a hand in helping me become a better person, better athlete. For somebody to actually want to honor that is pretty special to me." Also of special significance for Stockton is the fact that he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame with his longtime coach. Sloan was unable to attend the announcement ceremony, traditionally held in conjunction with the Final Four, because he was traveling with the Jazz. "He's not only been my coach and mentor," Stockton said. "But he's become a great friend over the years." Now they've become fellow Hall of Famers together, a "tremendous honor" Sloan said from New Orleans on Sunday, each having earned his way into the Springfield, Mass., museum on their first ballots. Next year, they'll be joined, no doubt, by Malone, who will be a lock in his first year of eligibility. Sloan originally joined the Jazz staff as a scout in 1983 and later became an assistant under Frank Layden about a month into Stockton's rookie season in the fall of 1984. Four years later, Stockton had established himself as one of the elite point guards in the league when ? and talk about good timing ? Sloan took the head-coaching reins from Layden. Incidentally, that season Stockton was named to the All-Star team for the first of 10 times. Both careers blossomed from there, with the Jazz always in the playoff-contender mix and eventually making it to two NBA Finals. (Jordan, by the way, joked Monday that out of respect for Stockton he wouldn't list the Bulls' 1997 and '98 Finals victories as his greatest career memories.) The careers of the Jazz pair ? two competitive, hard-nosed and sometimes feisty peas in a pod ? share traits of unprecedented endurance and excellence. Along with setting new standards for assists and steals, Stockton set an NBA record by playing all 19 seasons ? 17 of which he didn't miss a single game ? with the Jazz from 1984-2003. Sloan, now in his 21st season with Utah, is the longest-tenured coach in league history with one franchise, and he also became the first to ever win 1,000 games with one team earlier this season. Never one to seek attention or awards, Sloan is humbled by the honor. "It is a privilege to enter the Hall with such a tremendous group of individuals," he said. "I've been very lucky to have such great players, especially John, who is very deserving of this honor. I've also been fortunate to be with such a tremendous organization for the past 20-plus years and (am) extremely grateful to the Miller family for all of their support." Longevity is their legacy. But even with two decades' worth of achievements and accolades, Stockton says time they've spent off the court is as precious to him as time they spent on the court piling up all their Basketball successes. Stockton fondly recalls memories of toiling alongside Sloan on occasion at his coach's farm in McLeansboro, Ill. An uncanny work ethic is another shared trait between the two. "Some of our best times have been down on his ranch where we just have our feet in the dirt working on a levy or something, weeding or picking out old trees," Stockton recalled. "So absolutely anything I can do with that man is a thrill for me. I'm delighted to share this very large honor with him." Looking back at his career, Stockton says he took a simple approach of "one play at a time or one practice at a time," which was effective if cliched-sounding. The Jazz benefited, as a result, from working on the "small parts." "I would hope that somebody would realize you have to pay attention to detail," he said, "and you have to be good at the little things if you want to continue on and be a part of something as terrific as this." Being born into a family like Stockton's certainly helps, too. "The biggest influence is easily my family that I grew up with," said the son of Clementine and Jack, who grew up in Spokane, Wash., where he now lives. He laughed while reminiscing about honing his skills ? and learning how to lose ? against his older brother. "My brother Steve must have beaten me a thousand times in one-on-one," he said. "I finally beat him once and that was the last time we played. One in a thousand isn't a great record." But the unheralded Gonzaga product, picked 16th overall by the Jazz in the '84 draft, who became one of the NBA's Greatest 50 Players of all-time, also pointed out how he was helped by his sisters, his parents and his coaches ? from his middle-school mentor, Kerry Pickett, whom Stockton said "had as much influence on me as anybody," all the way on up to Sloan and Layden. And his list of people who assisted him doesn't stop there. Like Jordan joked, Springfield might not have enough room for all of those whom Stockton credits and appreciates. "There's just too many people to count and say, 'These guys had the most (influence),' " Stockton said. "There's a lot of people I owe a debt of gratitude to." Same could by said by many about Stockton and his coach. ?E-mail:

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Added: April 8, 2009


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