John Stockton's 15,808 assists is a record that may never be broken.
Jason Kidd, one of the best playmakers in NBA history, played 19 seasons and came more than 3,700 assists short. Chris Paul, the 'Point God,' has played 17 seasons and remains about 5,000 assists short.
Stockton is one of only two players in NBA history to average double-digit assists in his career … and he ranks fifth all-time in games played, having suited up 1,504 times in his 19 seasons in the league. Put that together and you have a seemingly unreachable record.
Stockton's is an underdog story. After four years at Gonzaga University, he thought he would continue his basketball career in Europe. But he made an impression at USA Basketball camp and, after being cut by the Olympic team, ended up as the 16th pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. With Stockton joining the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, it was one of the greatest Draft classes of all time.
Stockton was in the Utah rotation from Day 1. His first game with double-digit assists came in the sixth game of his rookie season, and he had 10 dimes in just 21 minutes off the bench. Two games later, he scored 19 points (along with four assists) in just 19 minutes in Denver.
Stockton came off the bench for most of his first three seasons in the league. And in his first season as a starter (1987-88), he averaged 13.8 assists per game, just shy of the NBA record (13.9) set by Isiah Thomas three years earlier. Stockton would go on to top that record in '89-90 (14.5) and '90-91 (14.2).
He led the league in assists a record nine-straight seasons and has five of the top six assist-per-game marks in NBA history.
Stockton's career high for assists came on Jan. 15, 1991, when he dished out 28 against the San Antonio Spurs. He also had 20 points, eight steals … and a block of David Robinson.
Stockton broke the all-time record for assists on Feb. 1, 1995. Needing 11 to pass Magic Johnson's total of 9,921, Stockton had 16 (in just 26 minutes) in a win over the Denver Nuggets.
That was Jazz owner Larry H. Miller suggesting Stockton might one day pass 15,000 career assists. The look on Stockton's face was one of skepticism, but seven years later, he'd hit that mark.
You don't get that many assists without incredible vision and creativity.
"He has the imagination," former Jazz coach Frank Layden said of Stockton. "For him, it's a dance. It's an art."
And you don't get that many assists without incredible durability. Stockton wasn't afraid to get physical; he's known for his screens almost as much as his assists. But he was probably the most durable player in NBA history. He had micro-fracture surgery on his left knee during training camp in 1997 and missed only the first 18 games of the season. That was one of only two seasons in his 19-year career that he didn't play in every game, with the other exception being the 1989-90 season, when he missed four. Counting playoffs, Stockton played in 1,686 (98.7%) of a possible 1,708 games for the Jazz.
And there were a lot of playoffs. The Jazz reached the postseason in all 19 of Stockton's seasons. He and long-time teammate Karl Malone (who had one season with the Lakers) are the only players in NBA history with 19 playoff appearances. And over Stockton's career, only the Lakers and Chicago Bulls had more postseason wins than the Jazz.
They won 17 series over those 19 years, reaching The Finals in 1997 and '98. Stockton sent them to the championship round with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 6 of the '97 Western Conference finals, and he led a comeback in Game 4 of The Finals 10 days later.
Stockton will forever be known as one of the best players to never win a championship, but he did win a gold medal as a member of the greatest team ever assembled. Of course, at 6-foot-1, he was the most unrecognizable member of the Dream Team.
Stockton is also the all-time leader in steals at 3,265, almost 600 more than any other player. He shot better than 54% on 2-pointers and better than 38% on 3-pointers in his career, ranking 11th in all-time effective field goal percentage (54.6%) among 269 players with at least 10,000 career field goal attempts.
Stockton was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.