SALT LAKE CITY – John Stockton already has a downtown street named for him and a sculpture of his likeness is being crafted, but the biggest honor is yet to come.
The Jazz announced Tuesday they will retire Stockton’s No. 12 in November, a move that has been inevitable since Stockton ended his 19-year career when he retired last summer.
“If anybody deserves it he does,” said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, who joined Utah as an assistant coach early in Stockton’s rookie season.
Stockton’s No. 12 will be placed in the Delta Center rafters on Nov. 22 when Utah hosts New Orleans. The Jazz are running out of ways to honor Stockton, the NBA’s career leader in assists and steals.
The street east of the arena was renamed John Stockton Way shortly after his retirement. A sculpture of Stockton _ in his signature short shorts _ will also stand outside the arena.
About all that’s left will be getting into the Hall of Fame, which Stockton will be eligible for in four years.
Sloan doesn’t gush much about his players, but when it comes to Stockton the often-gruff coach softens considerably.
“I think he’d have been an ideal player for any coach. He didn’t ask questions. He just went out and tried to do the best he could,” Sloan said. “That is unusual. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is unusual in this era, especially for the length of time he did it.”
The Jazz held a retirement ceremony in June 2003 for Stockton, who opened up slightly in his thank you speech to the fans who nearly filled the arena. The intensely private Stockton has always been reluctant to receive any recognition and did not often make public appearances.
“He never played for those things. He played the game because he enjoyed it and it was fun for him. He was totally committed,” Sloan said.
The Jazz took Stockton with the No. 16 overall pick in the 1984 draft and got way more than anyone could have expected from the skinny point guard from Gonzaga.
Stockton appeared in 1,504 of a possible 1,526 games as he played until age 41. His 15,806 career assists are nearly a third more than Magic Johnson’s 10,141, which is second on the NBA list.
Stockton’s 3,265 steals are 432 more than Michael Jordan, who is second in that category. Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz’s first-round pick the year after taking Stockton, anchored the team from the late 1980s through the 90s.
“We are excited to honor John in this special way,” Jazz owner Larry Miller said. “We look forward to hosting him and his family on Nov. 22. The evening will certainly be memorable.”
After his retirement, Stockton and his family moved back to Spokane, Wash., where he grew up and went to college. He’s maintained his privacy, although did show up at a Jazz game last spring and got a loud ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard monitor.
Stockton’s No. 12 will be the sixth number retired by the Jazz, who have also honored former coach Frank Layden with the No. 1 and former players Pete Maravich (No. 7), Darrell Griffith (No. 35), Mark Eaton (No. 53) and Jeff Hornacek (No. 14).
The next should be Malone’s No. 32, whenever Malone finally retires.