sports, Utah Jazz

Stockton, Sloan & Jordan *UPDATED!*

“John, you’ll never be one of the greats unless you show more leg.”


John Stockton and Jerry Sloan were two of the five NBA Hall of Fame inductees yesterday. Michael Jordan was a third. And while I (Ben) have never been an MJ fan, he was quick to note that “contrary to what you guys believe, it’s not just me going into the Hall of Fame. It’s a group of us and I’m glad to be a part of it. Believe me, I’m going to remember them as much as they’re going to remember me.” (David Robinson and Vivian Stringer were the other two inductees.)

He was also classy praising Stockton and Sloan. And honestly, he didn’t have to do any of that. He could’ve claimed, rightfully, that he’s the greatest who ever played the game. But he didn’t. In a pretty remarkable speech, he nodded to the greatness of those before him (Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain) and thanked his detractors: the media who doubted him, the NBA players and coaches who dissed him (Isiah Thomas, Jeff Van Gundy and — sigh — Bryon Russell among them), and the high school coach who cut him from the varsity team. (Remember this classic commercial.)

As for Stockton, this quote captures just a little of why I love him:

I thought they would figure me out pretty quickly. I thought the Jazz would figure out they made a mistake, so I saved every cent. When I got the first paycheck, I saved [it]. I rented a one-room apartment that was already furnished. Never bought a television set. I went to a discount food store and bought cans of Nalley’s chili and I made my mom’s lasagna and stacked it in the fridge. I was pretty sure I was a one-year-and-out guy.

Coming from the man who would become the all-time NBA assists leader, that’s pretty cool.

Henry Abbot has more on that quote, while J.A. Adande has appreciations of both Stock and Sloan.

UPDATE! I know nothing whatsoever of the context, but Jerry Grit texted me this picture last night.


Below it he wrote, “Me, setting a pick, in Shaq’s nose.”

UPDATE 2! The Onion reports that Stockton delivered another assist prior to the ceremony.


5 thoughts on “Stockton, Sloan & Jordan *UPDATED!*

  1. A few things:

    According to Ric Bucher, Stock had some fun with the MJ hoopla, saying, “One big shot and everybody thinks he’s so great.” (Nice one.)

    Also according to Bucher — speculation that Sloan chose Charles Barkley to introduce him because Chuck was his wife’s favorite player. Classy.

    I also appreciated that Sloan got choked up remembering his old friend and Bull teammate, Norm Van Lier.

    Did you happen to watch Jordan’s comments (as opposed to reading them?) I ask because the mention of Magic, Isiah and Iceman (and the supposed ASG freeze-out) seemed not so much a classy gesture as a kind of maniacal competitiveness, like “Yeah, it might be 25 years later, but I still remember.” Isiah and Gervin both had frozen expressions on their face, and you sensed that they wanted Jordan to move on as quickly as possible. I could be wrong, though. Isiah might have just been thinking of ways to bring Zach Randolph to Florida International.

    But I did think it was cool what he said about cringing when people call him the greatest ever. That was a nice moment, even if he did refer to himself in the third person throughout.

    Finally, I thought Henry Abbot’s piece on Jordan was extremely insightful and refreshingly balanced and fair:

  2. Scott my friend, I knew you’d be the first one in on this.

    I heard only part of Jordan’s comments and read the rest, so I would’ve missed the vibe in the room when he talked about the ASG freezeout, for which he apparently blamed Isiah. But I thought (this is based on what I read) he mentioned Gervin, Bird and Magic in the context of those who doubted he could measure up to their accomplishments. No?

    Yes, I can see those remarks coming off as uber-competitive, or someone thinking, “MJ, it’s time to let it go.” On the other hand, I found it touching that, as he told Michael Wilbon, he wasn’t ready to “be put out to pasture.” The guy genuinely misses playing, and what was supposed to be a commemoration probably felt to him like a funeral.

    Add to that the emotion, the tears, the weight he’s put on (contrasted with the clips of him defying gravity), and I found myself feeling a little sad for the guy, which is something I never felt watching him compete. So that caught me off guard.

    And what’s going on here? Am I playing the role of Jordan apologist to your Jordan skeptic? The world has turned upside-down.

  3. Hmmm. Well, that’s certainly what I would’ve written had I heard the speech, say, minutes after the 1998 Finals. Time heals all wounds, I guess. And yes, I clearly misread the ASG freezeout. MJ maybe could’ve left that part out.

  4. In fairness, Jordan did say last night that he never thought there was a freeze-out, and that he was simply proud to be surrounded by all those guys in his rookie season. But without question he used the *notion* of a freeze-out as inspiration. That’s just what he did.

    I think the truth of his remarks lies somewhere between the Yahoo column and Ben’s first take on them. I think he INTENDED to be classy and reverential, but he’s a little ham-handed when it comes to humility, so it comes off a bit contrived or not-quite-genuine.

    I’m not exactly a skeptic, either. I love Jordan and am so appreciative that he did what he did in a Chicago uniform. But everything after that, the Wizards ownership, the Wizards “comeback,” the managing of Charlotte from a golf course, has opened my eyes a little bit.

    What you read as a sorrowful yearning for his glory days, Ben, I saw as a very familiar lurch into the limelight. He, like so many great ones, does not do retirement well. The fire that made him so great also led him to trash talk Bryon Russell and Jerry Krause in his induction speech, when he probably should have devoted about five more minutes to thanking and praising Scottie Pippen, not to mention the lesser luminaries who made him look so good by living up to the moment and sinking so many clutch buckets (Craig Hodges, Bobby Hansen, John Paxson, BJ Armstrong, Steve Kerr, Will Perdue. OK, not Perdue.)

    Would I feel this ambivalence had Jordan moved into the Bulls front office in 1999 and stayed retired for good? I guess we’ll never know.

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