The Sports Junkie is taking a few weeks off. I’ve had enough of your abuse for awhile. Today’s Sports Junkie was posted a few days early. There will be no article on November 10. The next article I post will be on November 21 for November 17. The normal progression of trivia will be included; that article will answer today’s trivia question, and ask another. I’ll then get back into the Thursday thing, and post another article on November 24. Nod twice if you fully comprehend the above message.
Happy Anniversary to my good friends and long-time friends, Neil and Diane Kessler, on November 5. Diane, you have my sincere sympathy. And then a few days later, Happy Birthday to my beautiful step-daughter, Ontida, on November 8.
It was with great pleasure to learn that Paul DePodesta was canned as GM of the Dodgers. Maybe there’s a chance for that team yet. The Dodgers are now in need of a GM, a field manager, and half a team. Jim Tracy should still be field manager, but now that that’s history, my vote for his successor is #55, Orel Hershiser. My vote for GM is me if the Dodgers don’t sign Theo Epstein to the job.
Story of the Week
This article is for my good friend, James Hales, of the Marriott Corporation in Salt Lake City. It does not begin to express my gratitude and appreciation for all he's done for me down through the years. He’s an avid Utah Jazz fan and an avid fan of the subject of this article.
Throughout John Stockton’s great career, the number 16 pick from the 1984 NBA draft (that draft also produced Jordan, Olajuwon, Barkley and Perkins) steadily and quietly constructed a reputation as the greatest playmaker in basketball. Such a reputation is built on the loftiest assists and steals totals in NBA history. And perhaps outside of Magic Johnson, he is the best set-up man the game has so far produced.
Stockton came out of unheralded Gonzaga College where he paced the West Coast Athletic Conference in points scored as a senior, and in assists and steals all three seasons. He began his assault on NBA playmaking marks as soon as he cracked the Utah Jazz starting lineup in 1986-87 as a third-year player. He first hit the 1,000 assists-per-season mark in 1987-88 with 1,128. He bettered that mark more than once, namely seven times. He was the first player in NBA history to top 1,000 assists for five straight years, and led the league in that department a record nine straight seasons.
Stockton appeared in 10 straight All-Star Games, and was MVP of that game in 1993. He and the Jazz appeared in two NBA Finals, teaming up with the great power forward, Karl Malone to form a brilliant inside-outside offensive combination. We think of Stockton’s assists records and scoring ability, but a less noticed and less publicized aspect of John Stockton’s record-setting career is the fact that he also stands first on the all-time steals list as well. The latter is one of basketball’s most underrated categories. Think about it; a steal can be a 4-6 point swing.
As a testimonial to his durability, John Stockton played in the NBA for 19 seasons, all with one team. Utah made the playoffs in each of John’s 19 campaigns. He retired after the 2002-03 season. He closed his career with his history-setting 15,806 career assists and 3.265 career steals. He pumped in 19,711 career points, a 13.1 scoring average. He had a career free-throw % of .826.
Let’s put all those assists and steals in the proper perspective. John Stockton is far and away the leader in those departments. The second leading career assists player is Mark Jackson at 10,334, an enormous 5,472 assists behind Stockton. The second leading career steals player is Michael Jordan at 2,514, also an enormous 751 thefts behind Stockton. Statistics are relative, so the comparison of Stockton to his competition in those departments truly makes you appreciate him all the more.
In 1996, John Stockton was selected as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. But in my eyes, his greatest legacy was his great love and passion for the game he played so well. He was quoted more than once as having said, “They actually pay me to do this!” It is too bad indeed that all athletes don't show this same appreciation for their good fortune.
Last Week’s Trivia
What are the six ways a batter can reach base without hitting the ball? The operative word is batter, so a pinch-runner does not apply. I got the obvious five of them; a hit batsman, a walk, a wild pitch on the third strike, a passed ball on the third strike, and catcher interference with the batter. Those are the easy ones. No one got the sixth one, myself included. It is in the official MLB rule book, Section 8.05(e). A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. This pitch occurs before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base, the penalty is a balk. With no runners on base, the penalty is a called ball. On a count of three balls and whatever number of strikes, the batter takes first base.
Trivia Question of the Week
What do Giovanni Carmazzi, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn all have in common? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.