John Stockton Was Really, Really Good

June 5th, 2013 | by David J Smith


Within a matter of days, the NBA saw two all-time greats ride off into the sunset. After tremendous careers spanning parts of three decades, Grant Hill and Jason Kidd announced their retirements. The praise for their distinguished achievements that has since ensued is very fitting and deserving. The news has spawned debate as to where this pair fits in the annals of NBA lore.

Specifically, in the case of Kidd, it has lead to discussion of the best point guards in NBA history and where he fits in the pecking order. Seeing the barrage of tweets and articles that highlight Kidd’s career was enjoyable, but the Jazz devotee in me naturally gravitated to one Mr. John Stockton and his greatness.

Several have asked who had the better career: Kidd or Stockton? I won’t go too in-depth on this, as that is a topic for another day. Suffice it to say, that while Kidd has the edge in some areas (better rebounder, stronger defender, earned a championship with Dallas), Stockton has my vote due to his own advantage in others (all-time leader in two major statistical categories, durability, better shooter).

Even the most die-hard of Jazz fans can sometimes underestimate just how good Stockton was. If you will indulge me, I would like add another perspective on his place amongst his fellow elite point guards.

First, we know most of the following statistics and accolades by heart:

  • The all-time leader with 15,806 dimes. Led the league in assists nine consecutive seasons. Tallied 1,000+ assist seasons.
  • With 3,265 steals, also the all-time leader in thefts.
  • 10-time All-Star. Co-All-Star MVP in 1993.
  • 11-time All-NBA selection. Five-time All-Defensive team member.
  • Two-time Olympic gold medal winner.
  • Led the Utah Jazz to the playoffs each of his 19 seasons, including two Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998.
  • Played every game in 17 of his 19 campaigns. Including 182 postseason outings, #12 played in 1,686 of 1,708 possible games (98.7%).
  • Apparently one autobiography.
  • And so on and so on.

Well, here is one more statistic that illustrates Stockton’s mastery: points accounted for. I remember fondly many instances where John Stockton would orchestrate a brilliant quarter where he either scored or assisted nearly every basket for the Jazz. He essentially accounted for almost every point for his squad. This was a rather common occurrence, and one way in which he could quietly dominate.

The formula is simple: (assists x 2) + points scored. Obviously, we cannot accurately ascertain how many of a player’s assists resulted in three-pointers by teammates, but we can figure out the minimum points an individual accounted for during his career.

Along with the 15,806 assists, Stockton scored 19,711 points (which might be a surprising total: he was a very underrated shooter and scorer). While we cannot gauge how many three-pointers John assisted via the likes of Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, and Darrell Griffith, we know that Stockton accounted for at least 51,323 points. Astounding.

Let’s compare him against some of the game’s best playmakers:


Name Games played Assists Points Scored Pts Accounted For
John Stockton 1,504 15,806 19,711 51,323
Oscar Robertson 1,040 9,887 26,710 46,484
Jason Kidd 1,391 12,091 17,529 41,711
Gary Payton 1,335 8,966 21,813 39,745
Magic Johnson 906 10,141 17,707 37,989
Steve Nash 1,202 10,249 17,285 37,783
Isiah Thomas 979 9,061 18,822 36,944
Andre Miller 1,126 7,956 15,496 31,348
Bob Cousy 924 6,955 16,960 30,950

These are some impressive numbers by some very impressive players, but Stockton’s total is remarkable. Obviously, his longevity and lack of missed games contributes greatly, as some counterparts accounted for more points per game played. In future posts, I will delve deeper into points accounted for, but for now, thisĀ gives you a feel for the impact Stockton had on the game. While Karl Malone and his prolific scoring earned most of the headlines, Stockton’s contributions were amazing.


David J Smith

David J Smith

Besides writing for Salt City Hoops, David contributes to the Utah Jazz coverage for the Deseret News and has written for the Utah Jazz website and (now Basketball Insiders). He graduated from BYU and works for LDS Philanthropies. He and his incredibly patient wife, Elizabeth, have some amazing children--four girls and two boys. Voted "Most Likely to Replace Jerry Sloan" in high school.
David J Smith

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  1. If you only throw the “games played” column up in that chart, it looks fetching impressive. Yeesh.

  2. Clint Johnson says:

    Stockton absolutely is underrated as a shooter and scorer; unfortunately, that is partially due to periodic excessive unselfishness. I still remember times he made a perfectly reasonable pass to Russell or Carr or Anderson or Even Ostertag and wishing he’d taken the shot.

    Also, man, does Oscar Robertson not get his due when it comes to best of all time discussion. Give him the same number of games as Stockton and he accounts for 67,223 points! That’s insane! Only Magic could come close but he’d still fall short at 63,063. Talk about great, great players.

  3. David J Smith says:

    @Braeden–yes, indeed. John Stockton’s excellence over so many years was remarkable.

    @Clint, good points. Yes, John was sometimes unselfish to a fault. The one player who takes that to another level: Rajon Rondo. He can be selfishly unselfish trying to pad the assist totals!

    Oscar Robertson was simply one of the best players, not just point guards, in history. He has his well-documented triple double season and was a winner.

  4. Lee Nielson says:

    John Stockton was the best player to ever wear a Jazz uniform! No one else is close!

  5. Kenny says:

    Stockton, Was a great player. I take nothing away from him.He still is one of the best to played the position. He was a great passer and good gambling defender . Magic averaged 11.1 assist to Stocktons 10.5. Magic averaged 19.5 Points Per Game to Stocktons 13.1. Oscar Robertson had 9.5 assist and 25.68 points per game. You divide Pts Accounted For by game and Stockton is 4th on that list. All behind Oscar Robertson, 44.6, Magic Johnson 41.74, Isiah Thomas 37.73 and just above Bob Cousy 33.0 with his 34.

    • Josh says:

      Now Kenny if the other players had played as long as Stockton then you could use your comparison, Stockton stats dipped quite a bit his last couple years. So take the same amount of years worth of stats say the first 12 of each player and run calculations on that and then compare your numbers and you will have a completely different story:) Good Luck Buddy:)

      • Jesse says:

        That’s true, Stock’s stats dipped as all players would as they get that old, so while Magic, Robertson, and Thomas may have averaged that in their relatively short careers, they all would have went down in the years beyond as well. Case in point look at Kidd and Nash, their averages have/are falling as they get further on in years. One of Stockton’s most under-rated abilities is the fact he managed to remain healthy and effective for so long… no doubt in my mind he could have been a solid backup PG for at least 2-3 more seasons if he wanted.

    • Jesse says:

      By the end of his 11th Season (898 games, 8 less then Magic) Stockton’s Assists per game was 11.6.

      By the end of his 12th Season (980 games, 1 more then Thomas) Stockton’s Assists per game was 11.6.

      By the end of his 13th Season (1,062 games, 22 more then Robertson) Stockton’s Assists per game was 11.5

      At the end of their careers, Stockton’s Assists and Points Accounted For were still higher then Magic, Thomas, and Robertson… and Stockton played another near 500 games after them… that’s why he’s the greatest.

      • David J Smith says:

        Jesse, great insights! Thanks for taking things a step further. John Stockton truly was one of a kind.

  6. David J Smith says:

    @Kenny–Thanks for your comment. I did mention in the article that some had higher averages per game. Robertson, Johnson, and Thomas were all terrific. Stockton, in his prime, averaged between 37 and 46.2 points accounted/game over nine seasons.

    Magic did have a higher apg than Stockton for the career, but before his final several seasons, I believe Stockton may have been slightly higher than Johnson. John played six seasons between the ages of 35 and 41, averaging between 7.5 and 8.7 apg. It lowered his career averages, but was still remarkable at that age.

    • travis says:

      your absolutly right stockton in my opionion was the best of all time but all were great players and i am a lakers fan

  7. Mark says:

    Combine an of that with the iron man factor (IMF). His endurance was established against the background of setting jarring picks on some of the NBA’s all-time bigs! He was so fearless and effective that there were often allegations that John played dirty. What else will the ego of a 6’10” power foreword allow after being schooled by little John! John’s endurance was not the product of playing like a primping premadonna.

  8. Darrell says:

    Great article. Stockton was amazing. If we’re permitted to make a distinction between “pure” point guards like Stockton and “do everything” point guards like Magic and Big O, John is #1 in my book. (And as much as I like Steve Nash, I can’t believe he won, not one, but two MVP awards.)

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