Stockton Plans to Retire

May 2, 2003

AP Sports Writer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - NBA career assists leader John Stockton plans to retire after 19 seasons, and he met with Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and owner Larry Miller to tell them.

"I think I'm finished," Stockton said Friday. "I informed those guys and that's the direction I'm headed. I just said, 'I think it's time to move on."'

The 41-year-old point guard's 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals both rank first in league history. And all came with the Jazz.

Utah's season ended Wednesday with a 111-91 loss to the Sacramento Kings, who won their first-round playoff series 4-1.

During the season, Stockton shrugged off queries about his future, repeatedly answering the question "Will this be it?" with the answer "I don't know."

Despite his age and playing his fewest minutes since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, he remained among the league leaders at point guard, finishing fifth in the NBA with 629 assists. Stockton averaged 10.8 points this season, down from his career high of 17.2 in the 1990s.

He was selected one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, and he played in every game in 17 of his 19 seasons.

Stockton was drafted 16th overall by the Jazz out of Gonzaga, the school in his hometown of Spokane, Wash. He was hardly known - just a quiet, skinny 22-year-old with a thatch of jet black hair.

His appearance never changed much, but his anonymity vanished quickly once former coach Frank Layden made Stockton a starter in the 1987-88 season. That's when Stockton and forward Karl Malone established themselves as one of the top tandems in NBA history.

Stockton went on a five-season spree averaging at least 1,100 assists and 200-plus steals while scoring between 14.7 and 17.2 points a game.

Establishing himself as one of the top point guards in the league, he earned a spot on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team, along with such stars as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

He was an Olympian again in 1996, the summer before the Jazz went from contenders to Western Conference champions.

Stockton and Malone led the Jazz to back-to-back conference titles in 1997 and 1998, when Jordan and the Chicago Bulls spoiled Utah's best chance for an NBA title.

Stockton will always be known more for his pinpoint passing and tenacity on defense than his shooting. But some of the Jazz's most memorable baskets came from Stockton's hand.

It was Stockton's 26-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in Houston that gave Utah its first trip to the NBA Finals in 1997. In the 1999 playoffs, his 22-footer at the horn saved the Jazz from elimination, and Utah went on to beat Sacramento in the first round.



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