“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.
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.