There have always been players who we love to root against and John Stockton must be right up there with Kobe Bryant ("Lakers Still Full of Fight") for the highest ranking player in this category in the last 30 years.
John Stockton never won a championship, but he just might be a top ten all-time player. In his day, he was respected and admired but not universally adored. He was the kind of guy who you always liked to watch when he played against your team, yet his hard-nosed, fiery style easily inspired anger.
He'd bully your team's point guard into a turnover at the end of the game and you would know how good John Stockton was and your respect for him would match your hate.
For basketball reputation and public stature, Stockton could be compared to Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce today. These are guys that play hard, play to win, and who people love to hate. At least, this is how I look at John Stockton.
As much as I believe the stories of dirty play that still circulate around his name, I think Stockton deserves to be a part of the basketball conversation. When we talk about the 90s, the conversation is limited to the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, for the most part.
They are only a small part of the NBA's story from that era, the best part, but there were some great players and teams that the Bulls went up against.
Playing alongside Karl Malone, John Stockton helped lead his team to the playoffs for all 19 years of his career. Over the course of those 19 seasons, he played every game for a full 17. That's grit. That's determination. Stockton was a tough player, renowned for setting screens and doing whatever it took to win:
"He set tough, elbow-first, sometimes dirty screens, meant to make a power forward or shooting guard think twice about the relative health of their kidneys as they fought to meet Malone as he flashed to the post, or Jeff Hornacek as he worked outside to grab the pass needed to then make the entry pass." (Ball Don't Lie)
This competitiveness earned Stockton a reputation and it earned him victories. He never won a championship, but he did help Karl Malone become the number two all-time scorer in NBA history and he earned a place for himself in the NBA Hall-of-Fame.
John Stockton was twice selected for All-NBA first team honors and 10 times was selected as an All-Star, even winning the All-Star game MVP award in 1993. He won the Olympic gold medal with Dream Team 1 and Dream Team 2 and led the league in assists 9 times.
Upon retiring in the early 00s, Stockton was the all-time leader in assists and steals. With 15,806 assists, John Stockton still maintains his position as the all-time leader in assists. Jason Kidd is still 4,000 dimes behind him.
In career steals Stockton is also still on top with 3,265 steals. That's almost 700 more than Michael Jordan who is second on the list.
These records are a testament to Stockton's basketball prowess, but they only tell part of his story. I hope that as the NBA conversation continues we can hear more of that story. Stockton deserves that much.
More From This Contributor: