The key to this statement is that I am not writing that Stockton is the best player of all time (even a biased Jazz fan would have a hard time making that argument). I want to focus on the word value. How do I describe value in how it relates to an NBA player?
- $$$ cost
- Impact on team chemistry
Someone like Michael Jordan (conventional wisdom’s pick for greatest of all time) would score extremely high marks on contributions, but he also was very well compensated. Since both were drafted in the same year it is easy to compare their salaries over the years. In fact if you look at Salary divided by Win Score then you will get an estimate of how much each team paid for each win the player the produced. Let’s call this new stat Cost Of A Win. Let’s compare Jordan and Stockton:
- 1984-1993: This would be the best apples to apples comparison since there were no retirements or anything that would mess up the analysis. Jordan COW = *$90K. Stockton’s COW = $72K
*The way that you read this stat is that the Chicago Bulls effectively paid $90K for each win that Jordan contributed to the team from 1984-1993. The Utah Jazz only paid $72K for each win Stockton contributed. It is of a better value for the COW to be low.
- 1995-1998: This was after Jordan’s first retirement and both perennial All Stars had larger contracts. Stockton made $4.6M a year and Jordan made $22.3M a year. What was the result in terms of COW? Stockton’s COW jumped to $400K. Jordan’s COW jumped to $1.2M!
- Career: This is not the best apples to apples comparison since there were large gaps in between Jordan’s career since he retired twice. However, the overall COW for Jordan was $421K compared to Stockton’s $321K.
Now it would take close to forever to look up everyone, but I did check a few of Stockton’s 1984 draft counterparts. The #1 pick from that draft Hakeem Olajuwon’s career COW of $657K was higher than both Jordan and Stockton. The 5th pick of the draft, Charles Barkley has a bit of a more interesting case as it relates to Stockton. From 1985 to 2000 (according to basketball-reference’s salaries) John Stockton made $40.8M, while Charles Barkley made $40.3M. If Stockton had retired the same year as Barkley then they would have played in the same amount of seasons. At the time Stockton would have made $40.8M for 177.1 wins, while Barkely would have made $40.3M for 177.2 wins. For two such dissimilar players and personalities the total salaries and win score are very, very close. However, Stockton played three more years and produced the equivalent of 30 more wins. Barkley spent that time getting ready for his career with TNT.
It is clear that Stockton was a valuable player, but a quick look at his stats on basketball-reference.com confirms that assumption. A summary of some of the ones I like:
- Assists-#1 by 5,576 assists. There are many things you can do with his amazing total numbers of 15,806 assists. The difference in assists between Stockton and Jason Kidd produces enough assists to rank an individual 37th all time. Right behind Michael Jordan & Allen Iverson, and right above Hall of Fame point guard Dennis Johnson. Again that is the difference between Stockton and the #2 player in all time assists.
- Assists (continued) – He is also #1 in assists percentage at 50.2%. He led the league in assist percentage for 15 seasons including his last season at the age of 40.
- Steals - #1 by 751 steals.
- Win Shares – 207.7, which is 5th all time behind Kareem, Wilt, Malone and Jordan.
- True Shooting Percentage- 9th
- Minutes/Games played – 6th and 3rd respectively.
I think I have sufficiently covered the contributions and the cost aspect of Stockton’s career. However, I think there are things that can’t be covered with numbers (I know this might be shocking to those who are evenly slightly aware of my writing style). I think there is a certain unquantifiable value in a player who comes to play every day (Stockton played in 98.5% of the Jazz games from 1984-2003), without an attitude and just goes about his business. It is hard to imagine another player ever being like John Stockton. There was no ego, no controversy, no decline in play and nothing that ever distracted the Jazz from winning basketball games. Also, there were no retirements, no hitting his teammates and nothing but year after year greatness.
Because of that I think Stockton is the most valuable player in NBA history.