Facts and figures

"The best pure
point guard
who ever
the game"

Good passers need good catchers _ like Malone _ to pile up assists

John Stockton's longevity is staggering. The best 7-footers -- Kareem, Hakeem, Robert Parish -- may stick around for 19, 20, 21 years, but not 6-foot-1 point guards. In the mind-boggle time-warp that is Stockton's career, just remember that it has been eight years since he broke the NBA's all-time assists record.

Back in the days before that happened, Stockton allowed that he was not so much a connoisseur of passes as he was of catches.

"You have to be blessed with good catchers," he said. "No finish, no assist."

He picked three then as his favorites -- a snag by Mark Eaton in a playoff series against Seattle, an alley-oop to Carey Scurry that Stockton thought he'd thrown out of the building and a just-instinct pass that a posted-up Karl Malone caught by spinning around Ralph Sampson.

But as much as Stockton is remembered for the 3-point shot that beat Houston and sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997, his best pass -- and Malone's catch -- came in Game 4 of the Finals, which Utah won to tie the series at 2-2. With Utah trailing 73-72, Stockton rebounded a Michael Jordan miss and stunningly fired the ball downcourt toward Malone, who laid it in for the go-ahead points with Jordan playing free safety."When he threw it," said Malone, "I thought, `Well, Stock doesn't throw bad passes, so I must be open."'

_John Blanchette


Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, right, looks to pass against pressure from Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash during an April game in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson)

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