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Stockton to Malone
I am a few weeks late on this but it is the type of story that I love so I can’t not mention it. Stockton to Malone like peanut butter and jelly.  They were a historical combination.

A few weeks ago Karl Malone,stockton to Malone.jpg considered by many as the greatest power forward to play in the NBA, watched as his Utah Jazz jersey (#32) was retired and a bronze statue of him was unveiled in front of the Delta Center, home of the Utah Jazz.  Loyal fans showed up, longing for a revival of winning tradition that the current Jazz team lacks.

Malone thanked his teammates for their role in his success. "I realize you knew where the ball was going all the time and you accepted it. Thank you," Malone said. Stockton, always quick to dish to the Mailman said, "It all worked because of the big fella in the middle."

If you know basketball you can’t talk about Malone without mentioning John Stockton. The two are the poster boys for the “old school” pick and roll, hard work and putting the team first. Of course, Stockton was there for the ceremony and Malone’s jersey and statue stand next to his #12 and own bronze of him making a bounce pass. The two statues stand just off the corner where John Stockton Drive and Karl Malone Drive intersect southeast of the arena.

While every personality has its critics, Karl Malone’s legacy rests in the record book. Over his career he demonstrated tremendous leadership characteristics and traits that will make him a shoe-in for the hall of fame.

On the basketball court, his relationship with Stockton was magical. Both players came into the NBA in an era when few basketball players enjoyed superstar or celebrity status. Both players were first-round draft choices spaced one year apart but were relatively unheralded (or at least underhyped) out of college. Yet they combined to become the greatest duo in NBA history. For 17 seasons they played together for the Jazz. Both were high efficiency players that got the most out of themselves, each other and their teammates. They each made the playoffs for 19 seasons – tied for the most in NBA history. Both played both sides of the court and have the stats to prove it.

Below are some of the achievements and the character traits that led to such excellence:

  • Passion, Commitment and Longevity - They loved the game. Malone played all 82 games of the season 10 times while John Stockton played all 82 games for 14 seasons (3rd and 1st all-time)
  • Execution and Consistency - Malone’s 36,928 points ranks second in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabaar's. Many of the points came from unselfish and creative passes from Stockton who is the NBA all-time leader in assists with 15,806 – more than 5,000 more assists than number two.
  • Well-rounded and willing to work - Malone ranks sixth on the league's all-time rebounding list (14,968) – it takes strength and energy to rebound (not a scorer’s delight)
  • Hard Work and Opportunistic - Stockton is the NBA all-time leader in steals with 3,265. Surprisingly, Malone had 2,085 swipes and puts Karl at 9th all-time
  • Preparation - Malone is second all-time in minutes played (54,852). Malone was always in peak physical condition, with a strict off-season regimen.
  • Loyal - John Stockton (1,504) ranks 1st all-time and Malone is 2nd for most games played with one franchise
  • Competitor - Karl was also very physical and has the second most fouls in NBA history (Abdul-Jabaar 4,657) - play a lot, foul a lot.
Many in Utah may feel Malone sold out and left the Jazz high and dry after Stockton retired in 2003. I don’t agree. With his long-time teammate no longer with the Jazz, Malone had little reason to stay and an opportunity for a chamionship in LA was reason enough to go.  Who can blame him? He took a $17 million pay cut for the privilege. Hardly a sell-out.

How did they do it? They understood their role, played within the system provided by the coach and stuck to the basics. It wasn’t about making the highlight reel. It was about just getting the job done. No monster dunks or fancy dribbling, no gangsta style or bling. In the end it was hard work, commitment and team work that made Stockton and Malone two of the 50 Greatest Players of all time.

Photo credit Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune

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» Karl Malone Receives and Gives from LeaderNotes
You don’t have to look far to find stories about athletes that are selfish, self-centered and poor role models (find your own links). On occasion, there is an inspirational story that reminds us that not every athlete fits that mold.... [Read More]

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