The Roar
The Roar



Why John Stockton is the greatest NBA point guard of all-time

JSDSGN new author
Roar Rookie
11th November, 2020
John Stockton of the Utah Jazz with the ball during a National Basketball Association game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
JSDSGN new author
Roar Rookie
11th November, 2020

Most NBA fans attribute the title of greatest point guard ever to Magic Johnson.

Often, younger or uneducated fans arrive at this conclusion because they simply just agree with the older generation, without really forming an opinion off the basis of any evidence or knowledge.

However, delving deep into the career of Utah Jazz legend John Stockton and his 19-year NBA career provides a wealth of evidence to form a very strong argument as to why he is the ‘GOAT’ of all point guards.

The true value of a point guard lays first and foremost in their playmaking ability and then extends to perimeter defence and offensive capabilities, particularly shooting.

Whilst this is subjective, and depends on what someone values most in a point guard, one cannot deny that Hall-of-Famer John Stockton is the quintessential example of how the position should be played.

Admittedly, Magic Johnson is probably the more well-rounded basketballer – his height provides him with more flexibility when it comes to post defence, rebounding, and shooting over opponents.

This allowed Magic to play a variety of positions when needed, however this is irrelevant when determining the greatest point guard.

Stockton is comfortably the greatest playmaker ever, but his often-overlooked elite perimeter defence is bettered by only Gary Payton in terms of all-time point guards.


Stockton weighed only 170lbs and stood a mere 6’1” which makes him one of the best pound-for-pound players ever in one of the most physical, post-centric eras of basketball.

Stockton was not just an incredible passer and defender, but is one of the best shooting point guards in NBA history and is miles ahead of Johnson in this area.

In an era which didn’t prioritise three-point shooting like it does today, Stockton had a career average of 38.4per cent from behind the arc and shot 51.5per cent from the field overall which forced opposition defences to respect his elite shooting ability and thus allowed him to maximise his playmaking game.

Basketball going through the net

Stockton took the idea of longevity to unprecedented levels, playing a full 82-game season 16 times and astonishingly only missing 22 games in his whole career. While some may argue that this unrealistically inflates many of his numbers and all-time records, maintaining his elite level of consistency and value for almost two decades never been matched by another point guard, and likely never will be.

Stockton was an elite distributor and perimeter defender from the very beginning of his career and remained an elite point guard for two decades. Johnson had his career cut short due to HIV, but you can only deal with the cards you are dealt.

Across his first three seasons, Stockton only started a total of 45 regular season games out of a possible 246. Despite only playing 21.5 minutes a game in this period, Stockton averaged 6.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.


In comparison, Magic Johnson’s first three seasons yielded statistical averages of 19.4 points, 8.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game but in a whopping 37.2 minutes played.

If we scale Stockton’s minutes to match those of Magic across their first three seasons, Stockton’s numbers jump dramatically to a far better 11.9 assists and 3.1 steals per game. These numbers highlight Stockton’s innate ability to initiate the offense and guard the perimeter from the very beginning of his career, displaying his inherent understanding of the fundamental requirements to play the point guard position at NBA level.

Stockton’s best basketball came in the 1990s, arguably the toughest and most competitive era of NBA basketball which saw great teams frequently fall at the hands of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

In this decade, Stockton was the seasonal assists leader six times, all coming consecutively. In 1995-96, he led the league in effective field goal (EFG) percentage with 59.6 per cent after cracking the 60 per cent mark the previous year in a season which ranks in the top five all-time for EFGper cent among guards.

Stockton also maintained his incredible perimeter defence throughout the 1990s, leading the league in steals once again in the 1991-92 season.

Whilst Stockton played his best basketball in the 1990s, his output during the 1980s is often overlooked. He finished the decade by leading the league in assists three times in a row, and also recorded the all-time NBA record for highest assists average in a season in 1989-90 with a whopping 14.54 per game which will likely never be beaten.

He led the league in steals in the 1988-89 season and his average of 3.21 steals a game that year is the equal-sixth highest seasonal steals average ever.

John Stockton of the Utah Jazz

John Stockton of the Utah Jazz with the ball during a National Basketball Association game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Matt A. Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stockton holds a number of NBA records, some of which will likely never be surpassed. His longevity is seen in several statistics which place him at third in games played and fifth in minutes played all-time, including ranking first and second on the Utah Jazz all-time tables in both of these categories respectively.

Stockton has the most assists of all-time with 15,806 which places him nearly 4,000 assists ahead of Jason Kidd in second place. He also has the most steals of all-time with 3,265 which is nearly 600 ahead of second (also Kidd).

These two career totals are considered among the most unbreakable of all sporting records. Stockton led the league in assists a record nine times, and incredibly these seasons all came consecutively – another NBA record. He also holds five of the top six all-time seasons in terms of assists averages, and has the record for most assists in an NBA season with 1164 while also holding seven of the top ten figures in this category.

During his lengthy career, Stockton never missed the playoffs which is equal-first alongside partner-in-crime Karl Malone as the longest playoff streak ever by a player.

His inability to win a ring highlights the competitiveness of the NBA during his career, and is testament to the Bulls who warded off historic competition.

Stockton has the equal most assists in an NBA playoff game with 24, the equal third-most assists in a regular season game with 28 and amassed 20 or more assists in a game a record 38 times.


Along with his playmaking and defensive statistics, Stockton scored a total of 22,147 points in his career (regular season and playoffs) which places him in the top 50 all-time.

Whilst fans and analysts often use Stockton’s long career as the reason for his multitude of records, he’s also second all-time in assists per game and ninth all-time in steals per game. Besides, Stockton broke the records for career assists and steals seven years before he even retired.

Another incredible statistic he held during his time on the Jazz is his assist percentage – the percentage of a team’s field goals assisted by a single player. This number sits at an incredible 50.24per cent – yes, Stockton accounted for over half of his teams points from just his assists alone and when combined with his points per game averages we see that he was undoubtedly the most valuable player on the floor.

Stockton even sits sixth all-time in win shares, comfortably ahead of other legendary point guards like Oscar Robertson (11th), Chris Paul (14th), Magic (24th), Kidd (33rd), Steve Nash (41st), Stephen Curry (80th) and Isiah Thomas (154th).

On top of his wealth of NBA records, Stockton has an extensive career resume. After making the NBA All-Rookie team, he made the all-NBA First Team twice, the All-NBA second team six times, the All-NBA third team three times and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team five times.

He has his number 12 retired by both the Jazz and his college team, Gonzaga, and is a 10-time NBA All-Star, winning the All-Star Game co-MVP award in 1993. Stockton experienced his greatest team success, winning an Olympic gold medal as member of the iconic USA Dream Team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Karl Malone and John Stockton

Karl Malone #32 and John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz talk strategy during a break in NBA game action at the Delta Center circa 1997 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)


An argument often used against Stockton is the fact that he had an all-time scoring power forward in Malone to inflate his assists numbers. This can easily be flipped on its head to suggest Malone’s numbers would dramatically drop had he been stuck with an average facilitator.

Stockton also had a great post defender in Mark Eaton who sits fourth all-time in blocks, although Eaton was almost non-existent on the offensive end.

The same argument can be used more effectively against Magic Johnson who clearly had better offensive and defensive teammates during his career such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and even Michael Cooper.

Kareem was already a proven NBA legend, and along with being the all-time leading scorer in NBA history, he also sits third all-time in blocks. Michael Cooper was a great defensive guard, evident when he won the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award in 1987, and James Worthy is a top-ten Small Forward of all-time and was one of the best offensive weapons of the 1980s.

It is this argument – Stockton’s lack of help – which can rebut those who suggest his failure to win a ring removes him from the greatest point guard conversation. Another argument frequently used against Stockton is the fact that he sits fourth all-time in turnovers.

One way to counteract this would be to use the fact that he played for 19 seasons, however his longevity has already been highlighted as a positive factor. Instead, I raise the fact that Stockton has the second-best assist to turnover (ast/TO) ratio of all-time – which is incredible on its own – but even more so when you consider he has the most assists ever by a huge margin, and so his turnover numbers are actually great. Stockton’s ast/TO ratio is 3.72, compared to Magic Johnson who sits at sixth all-time at 2.89.

Several other historically great point guards and their ast/TO ratios include Kidd (3rd, 3.02), Payton (4th, 2.96), Nash (7th, 2.81) and Curry (9th, 2.15). Chris Paul is the historical leader in the category with a 4.1 ast/TO ratio. This is one of the best statistics to assess the facilitating ability of a point guard.


Stockton’s peers hold him in the utmost regard. Gary Payton, the second-best point guard of the 1990s, says Stockton was the hardest player he ever had to guard. Leaving many baffled by this revelation, Payton – who is the greatest defensive point guard ever and the only one to win a DPOY – reasons that Stockton was the fiercest competitor he ever faced.

The ball in Stockton’s hands spelled danger to the opposition as all five of Utah’s players were a threat to score, such was Stockton’s passing nous coupled with his shooting ability. Whilst many believe Johnson to be the best passer of all-time, it is easy to get caught up in Magic’s incredible no-look passes and not realise that Stockton was a far better decision maker.

Talented at recognising where his teammates were most efficient, Stockton was not just the facilitator but the leader of his team.

John Stockton was the quintessential point guard – an incredible facilitator, elite perimeter defender and excellent shooter. The 6’1” Jazz legend is criminally underrated by a generation of basketball fans who turn a blind eye to legends of the past and base their opinions on under-researched basketball stereotypes.

Stockton maintained a level of basketball for two decades which was unmatched by any point guard and only equalled by several basketballers of any position in general.

Possessing a host of untouchable records and feats, John Stockton is, without a doubt in my mind, the greatest NBA point guard ever.