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If you’ve heard John Stockton in interviews before, you’ll be able to hear his voice throughout the book, because he writes very similarly to how he speaks. The style is classic Stockton: humble, gracious, and deflecting praise whenever possible and redirecting it to where he feels it’s more deserved. This is exactly the kind of book and story you’d expect from an understated player who’s the all-time NBA assists leader. Even though the book is about him, he reflects as much of the praise and adoration as he can on those around him, those who guided and nudged him along his path.
He starts off with some background on his family, his growing-up years in Spokane, his relationship with his older brother, Steve, his time through college, and his start in the NBA. Some great stories have already been mentioned on other blogs, but I love the bit about him buying a Toyota Corolla as a rookie, but forgetting to register it or insure it that year, only to return it to the dealership a year later and find out the dealership didn’t even know it was missing!
His recounting of not turning on the heat in his small apartment his rookie season was pretty classic, too. It’s just the continuing story of a frugal man who was worried that, any day, he was going to be cut and sent packing. He was exceptionally careful with money, just in case. To think that a future Hall of Famer was so worried about being cut is a delightful story, in hindsight.
I have a couple favorite insights from the book, one of which I knew part of the story, and the other part that really surprised me.
The surprising part: He had fond memories of and appreciation for Isiah Thomas. Jazz fans appreciate Isiah’s GM-ship (that gave essentially gave us Gordon Hayward), but I feel many have soured on him because of other stories that have been discussed over the years. But Stockton sheds light on a generous mentor, one who ran after Stockton in a parking lot after a game, telling him, “Don’t let anyone run you out. You are playing great. Play as long as you still love it.” That, coupled with Thomas calling Stockton’s dad after the Olympic selection controversy to make sure the family knew his real sentiments, were insightful stories into a man whose character we might have wrongly perceived at times. Leave it to Stockton to be the one to graciously clarify.
Probably my favorite passage of the book described a situation briefly mentioned in the Larry H. Miller autobiography, Driven, but was given more context here. After hiring David Falk to represent him in contract negotiations, Stockton was hearing about his demands in the media or was disappointed that contract talks had stalled. In an extremely classy move, Stockton called Miller directly and asked if they could meet. Considering they didn’t have a relationship at that point, that was a gutsy—but impressive—call to make. After the initial pleasantries, Stockton was direct in asking, “Why are we stalled?” Miller explained the situation from his side, and handed a paper across the table, telling Stockton to write down what he thought he was worth, and Miller would do the same. The number was the same, and the contract negotiation was done.
I was incredibly impressed that a player would have the gumption to call the owner directly, ask to meet, they could clear the air, and quickly and easily come to a resolution. That might not be possible in today’s league, but folks might not have thought it possible in the league 20-25 years ago, either. But it was done, and shows the character of both Stockton and Miller as individuals.
That relationship grew over the years and as they were negotiating what would be Stockton’s final contract, Miller offered a deal that would have made Stock the highest-paid point guard in the league. While appreciated, Stockton countered with a substantially lower offer.
Can you even imagine anything like that happening in today’s NBA?
“Assisted” is a glimpse into the character of a man who is unique in the world, but even more unique in the world of the NBA. His voice throughout is simple, straightforward, and clear. The book reveals a man who is exactly who we hoped he would be—a strong, upstanding family man with a dose of humility and humor that is refreshing when penned by a Hall of Famer. He pays tribute to his family and friends, those who assisted him along the way. He discusses times when he didn’t handle situations as well as he could have, and shares some of his thoughts and process as his career was wrapping up. You get to see the ordinary human side of an extraordinary player, and that’s very refreshing.