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Stockton-to-Malone Leftovers Odds and Ends: Injury Tales

September 6, 2010

1. “I don’t like to give in to injuries. I don’t like to use them as excuses. Everybody has them. I think everybody should have the attitude that you can’t allow yourself to be hurt. You avoid a lot just with that attitude. I don’t know. [That’s] why I don’t wish to discuss it–it’s past. I always prefer to look forward.” — John Stockton (Hoop)

2. Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson recalls a time when Malone badly sprained an ankle but balked when trainer Don Sparks requested an X-ray to see how severely his foot was injured.

“Why should I X-ray it?” Malone asked. “I’ll play on it anyway.” (DN)

3. “I will tell you, there was one year in the early ’90s and we were playing Seattle in the playoffs,” said Jazz assistant coach Phil Johnson. “John had an elbow injury, and he could not lift his right arm. He spent most of the series dribbling with his left hand. He even considered shooting free throws with his left hand, but he did not want to let the Sonics know that he was hurt. He never told the press, never told anyone. After the season, he had surgery on his elbow. No one ever knew. We knew in the locker room only because he didn’t want to hurt the team. But he hated for anyone outside to ever know he was hurt.” (Sporting News)

4. That’s why he returned to the first preseason game after suffering a painful finger injury while trying to teach rookie Joe Smith a lesson. Malone, who admitted he wasn’t particularly fond of the hyped-up Smith or of any opponent for that matter, went up to block his foe’s shot “to make a statement.”

Instead of swatting the ball, though, Malone smacked the backboard.

He felt a burning sensation in his still-bent-to-this-day middle finger and looked down to see bone protruding through skin.

Sloan grumbled at Malone, “You ain’t playing no more.” But the Mailman insisted on finishing out the exhibition game in Albuquerque, N.M., even pointing out to his coach that he did similar things when he broke his nose multiple times in a game only to continue playing.

“I got a piece of tape, and taped it, and I played in a preseason game,” Malone said. “But we were just like that.” (DN)

5. You had to be there the night in Portland when Clyde Drexler accidentally shoved his index finger into Stockton’s eye up to the second knuckle. Stockton crouched in the locker room at halftime, dribbling the ball and trying to show the team doctors he could still go. Trouble was, he could see two images. All the better — that made two Karl Malones to look for, not just one. (DN)

6. “The only games [Stockton]’s missed were in 1989 when he had the flu and a sprained ankle and he came to the game, in the Meadowlands, and I said, ‘Get back to the hotel and go to bed,'” recalled Sloan. “And when we went to Charlotte the next day we checked him in the hospital.” (NY Times)

7. Earlier in the series-clinching victory against the Rockets, the ball struck the tip of his right forefinger, causing a blood blister the size of a sequin to swell behind the nail. A needle was heated and brought to Malone, who worked it betweeen the skin and the nail and lanced the blister himself. He didn’t bother to wince. (“Stand and Deliver,” ESPN Magazine 6/15/98)

8. In last year’s conference finals, Malone burned three layers of skin from the palm of his shooting hand after skidding long and hard against the floor. Jazz trainers did what they could, but the palm was so gory that Jazz assistant trainer Terry Clark compared it to raw meat. Malone played the rest of the series, then averaged 23.8 points against the Bulls in the Finals–and never made a peep. (“Stand and Deliver,” ESPN Magazine 6/15/98)

9. In 2000, the Jazz was in Lansing, Mich., to face the Pistons [in an exhibition game], but Stockton was having pregame trouble because his knee locked up. Stockton told Sloan that people had paid to be at the game, so he would play through it. (“Forty reasons to love John Stockton,” Sporting News, 3/26/2002)

10. John Stockton fought the trainer to return to the Bucks game Jan. 3 two minutes after having his eye blackened. (“Sloan keeps Jazz hitting right notes,” NY Post, 1/10/2003)

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