The Jazz drafted John Stockton in the first round of the NBA draft 30 years ago this year. No one then could have predicted that this 6’1” point guard would go on to join the NBA Hall of Fame. Stockton played 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz, was a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, retired with the all-time record for steals, and still holds the NBA record for career assists at 15,806.
Despite his accomplishments, Stockton was always one to avoid the media. He enjoyed his private life with his wife and six children and rarely put himself in the spotlight. But 30 years after his start in the NBA, Stockton is sharing wisdom from a long career, insights into his work ethic, and a peek into his successful family life.
Assisted an Autobiography
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An interview with NBA career assists leader and co-author of Assisted, John Stockton
While you were in the league you seemed to avoid the media for the most part. What made you decide to open the doors to your life to everyone?
It sure didn’t start that way. When I approached Kerry Picket, my sixth and seventh-grade basketball coach, to write this biography, my first goal was to share my thoughts with my family. It was really fun, and took us about four years to write. It was really a walk down memory lane for me. It ended up being bigger, something that could go beyond my family. We decided to get it published.
After being drafted in the first round by the Jazz, were you confident you’d have a long future with the NBA?
Absolutely not. I saved every penny from the first day. The way I lived that first year is evidence of how I felt. I had a small one-room apartment, cooked my own meals, saved everything I could. Even though I knew I had the ability to play, I wasn’t sure other people would see it. I was shocked when the Jazz wanted me for more than one year. I thought I was going to be sent home, and felt extremely grateful and relived when they extended my contract. I don’t know that I ever felt completely secure, even after ten or eleven years. I always went out and played like I had to prove myself each and every game.
You have a long list of accomplishments, from two Olympic gold medals to an all-time career assist record. Do you have one that means the most to you or that represents your greatest achievement?
The one thing that still puts a lump in my throat is when we won the semi-final round against the Houston Rockets. We finally got the chance to go to the NBA finals. We didn’t win it, but we got the chance to try. Those kinds of team victories stand out. Working together for years with the same group of guys and finally having it pay off is an incredible feeling.
During your basketball camp years with Kerry Pickett, what were some of the most rewarding things you remember about working with the kids?
There are a lot of rewarding things when it comes to working with kids. One part I loved was the relationship you built with them. We spent all day down there and wanted to see them improve. I loved getting to know their personalities, helping them with their skills, watching the kids build a kind of relationship with basketball and leave with a love of the game. I still have kids come back and talk to me about their time at basketball camp. It was very rewarding to see them succeed.
Speaking of kids, you have six of your own. What challenges did being a successful, professional basketball player present to raising a family?
There are a lot of challenges. My wife and I never shielded them. We wanted them to be involved in my basketball career and see that it was a part of our lives. We also wanted to make sure that we were investing in their lives. We made sure that their activities were important and supported them. There were many times that people would try to give us things. We’d go to a restaurant and people would say, “Here have ten ice cream cones.” We’d politely decline because we didn’t want our kids to start to think they’re special or better than other people. We didn’t want our kids to have that kind of attitude. We wanted them to have a normal life, normal development.
Since this is the holiday season, do you have any favorite Christmas traditions? A Stockton family pick-up game?
We just finished our closest thing to that. We all get together on Thanksgiving and head over to the warehouse. We play everything from football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball—anything the family wants to do. It’s a great day. We don’t really do that for Christmas. We spend Christmas Eve at our house and Christmas Day at my brother Steve’s. We really enjoy time together during the holidays.