Twelve Bits from John Stockton’s Autobiography, “Assisted”
I’ll be posting a longer review sometime in the next few weeks, but here are 12 bits from the book for now (and believe me, it was really hard to pare the list down to 12):
One. It was John Stockton’s idea to write this autobiography. He wanted to write it first and then try to find a publisher. This was perhaps the most surprising aspect of the book, given his notorious love of privacy.
The project was four years in the making.
Two. John Stockton’s grandfather, Houston, was John Houston Stockton. John Stockton’s dad, Jack, is John Houston Stockton II. Our John Stockton is John Houston Stockton III. Our John’s son, Houston, is John Houston Stockton IV.
Can you imagine if our John Stockton had gone by “Trey”? Lol.
Three. Olympic basketball numbers only go from 1 to 15. Because Stock kept his No. 12 jersey on the Dream Team, Karl Malone picked No. 11 so that they could stand shoulder-to-shoulder (chest) on the medal podium as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played in Barcelona.
Four. Phil Johnson kept (keeps?) a full-grown bobcat as a pet.
Five. Stock wasn’t exactly a big name prospect when the NBA Draft rolled around. George Karl, then head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was most open about his interest in drafting Stock. Stock also received a draft promise from then-Portland Trailblazers head coach Jack Ramsay–for the 26th pick of the second round.
The Jazz inquired about Stock once and then never followed up, but the man taking phone calls from NBA teams, his former Gonzaga coach Dan Fitzgerald, told Stock on draft day, “Keep your eye on Utah.”
Six. Stock proposed to Nada Stepovich during his second season.
It took him three tries.
He canceled his first attempt after some over-eager driving got him a speeding ticket on the way to the restaurant where he was going to propose. He canceled his second attempt after the Jazz lost a home game. The third (successful) attempt came in sweats on the couch in front of the TV.
Seven. One of my favorite lines in the entire book appeared immediately after Stock recounts how he proposed to Nada. “I must have been on a hot streak because Karl Malone arrived in my life that same year.”
They had met at the Olympic trials one year earlier, and had the chance to get reacquainted when Karl flew to Salt Lake for his post-draft introductory press conference. John and Karl spent an afternoon together walking around a zoo, and by the end of the afternoon, John knew he and Karl would become friends. ♥
Eight. Stock accidentally pledged to Nada his “love and infidelity” at their wedding rehearsal.
Nine. During their Jazz tenures, John and Karl competed for lowest body fat…until the training staff determined that both their body fat levels had plummeted below “safe levels.” Both of them consistently stayed in the 1-3 percent body fat range.
Ten. We all know by now, even if we didn’t before, that John Stockton didn’t become a full-time starter until his fourth season (because the front office loves reciting this stat more than any other). Largely ignored is that Stock started 38 of the first 41 games in his second season. Throughout this time, he was still wondering whether he’d be cut if he got hurt and when his basketball career would be over.
He was “slated” to be the Jazz’s starting point guard by his third season, but twisted his ankle while rushing to deposit coins in a parking meter the day before the Jazz’s first game. He was afraid to tell the trainers about the injury and played anyway. Matched up against Derek “You go live in Utah” Harper, Stock played badly and Frank Layden didn’t give him another shot at starting until the next season.
Eleven. Jeff Hornacek was a “godsend.” The Jazz went on a winning streak after his arrival and began winning consistently on the road for the first time. Basketball skills aside, Hornacek’s basketball IQ was invaluable to the Jazz.
During games, Horny would draw plays on his hand while calculating in his head the shooting percentages of every player on the floor. He would tell his teammates which opponents to let shoot and which teammates to give the ball to.
Twelve. Both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic gold medal game balls reside in the Delta Center (EnergySolutions Arena)…because Stock happened to be holding the ball during both games when the final buzzer sounded.
With the clock ticking down to zero in 1992, it occurred to Stock to hold onto the ball. The Croatians wanted Stock to hold the ball, because they wanted to preserve their margin of loss, which was the smallest throughout the Dream Team’s run to the gold medal. In 1996, coach Lenny Wilkens instructed Stock to get the ball with time running down, and Stock got a hold of the ball as the buzzer sounded.
As coaches don’t get medals, Stock found particular joy in draping his medal around the neck of assistant coach Jerry Sloan after the medal ceremony. John, Karl and Jerry then took a group photo that still has a great deal of meaning to all three of them.