Assisted (Hardcover)

by John Stockton, Kerry L. Pickett


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Foreword by Karl Malone

A fast, gritty, durable player who could read a basketball floor as well as anyone who ever played the game, John Stockton left the NBA after nineteen seasons with the Utah Jazz, holding a massive assist record, including the career mark (15,806). He also twice led the league in steals — with a career total of 3,265 — and retired as the NBA’s all-time leader. And during Stockton’s career, the Jazz never missed the playoffs.

Coach Frank Layden said, “Nobody thought that he was going to be this good. Nobody. But the thing was, nobody measured his heart.”

John’s autobiography, Assisted, pulls back the curtain on his very personal life to show fans a thoughtful recounting of the people, places, and events that have connected with John along his path of extraordinary success. This book clearly illustrates the importance of his family, his faith, and his unparalleled competitive spirit.

“An unlikely icon whose small-town values led him to take on NBA stardom on his terms.” — John Blanchette, columnist, The Spokesman-Review

“The intensely private basketball star gives readers a truly unique look at his career and his relationships with those who helped him along the way.” — Steve Luhm, columnist, Salt Lake Tribune

“If you thought you knew the Hall of Fame basketball player, the answer is yes and no.” — Brad Rock, columnist, Deseret News

Product Details

  • Size:  6" x 9"
  • Pages:  400
  • Year Published:  2013

About the Authors

Chapter 1

Thoughts from behind a Podium

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.

—Henry David Thoreau

I was honored and beyond nervous as I stepped to the induction podium at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September of 2009. Any previous excitement had long since evaporated as the weight of the task at hand bore down heavily in the minutes leading to my acceptance speech.

Seven months prior I was notified that I was a finalist for induction in February during the 2009 NBA All-Star weekend. It was the first time since my retirement that I had even thought about the honor. Selection for induction was nothing I had shopped for and wasn’t a goal of mine, but I had heard the label “Future Hall of Famer” applied to me enough on the heels of our second Olympic gold in 1996 that I wasn’t completely shocked to be under consideration.

The actual selections came about two months later during the NCAA Final Four tournament, when we were introduced during the halftime of one of the semifinal games in Detroit. My family and I enjoyed the action from a suite high above the court at Ford Field along with three of the four other inductees: C. Vivian Stringer, David Robinson, and Michael Jordan. Coach Jerry Sloan, still in midseason with the Jazz, was absent.

We reacquainted ourselves with “M. J.” and “The Admiral,” who had his son David Jr. onboard. Young David fit in with our kids as though they had known each other their entire lives. Later, they hooked up to have a lot of fun with pickup games in the hotel gym. They could have easily been mistaken for old buddies from the same neighborhood. It was fun to see them make a connection.

Watching the games in the relative quiet of the suite offered an opportunity for me to get to know Vivian Stringer. It took only about a minute to begin to see why she is such a great coach. Her passion for the game flowed from her as she spoke, and it was quickly obvious that she truly loves her athletes. Coach’s commitment to teaching the game and so much more about life resonated in her every word. Listening to her, I was so fired up I wanted to put a jersey on right then and there. I searched out Coach Vivian as often as I could that weekend just to listen. I have since read her book Standing Tall and recommend it to all athletes and parents of athletes. She understands adversity and how to battle through difficulties without whining or looking for shortcuts. Her lessons are important for all of us, especially young athletes. She is an amazing lady.

In the suite we were also introduced to our Hall of Fame hosts. We got to know most of them over the weekend but none more closely than Fran Judkins, who mothered us through the process of induction. By the end of the weekend, she had presented to each of us an official folder outlining the requirements with deadlines and restrictions for the upcoming months that would culminate with our induction.

One of the first duties we had to fulfill was to assemble a collection of at least eight items of personal memorabilia for display in the Hall. Almost anything was acceptable: special game shoes, jerseys, uniforms—you name it. I looked for items from every level that I had participated in. It didn’t take long to realize how little I had saved from my amateur days. My sparse cache consisted mainly of some old programs, a couple of pairs of socks from high school, and a T-shirt my college coach had printed for me when I was drafted into the NBA. I considered tendering my first leather ball, a gift from Mr. John Brodsky, a family friend and a former Bulldog basketball player. The ball had a rare Burlington-Cedar Rapids label. But I couldn’t bring myself to part ways with something that full of memories; I thought it might bear some special significance someday for the kids. Ultimately, I sent a few trophies and milestone game balls and added a treasured memento that would suggest who I am and what I had considered important in my life. The chosen item was a special shirt my wife, Nada, had made for me with each of our children’s hand- or footprints in bright colored paint pressed over the left chest. The kids now reside with me in the Hall of Fame.

Next, I had to select a presenter for the actual ceremony who had to come from a pool of current members of the Hall of Fame. A list of those still living was included in our folder. Scanning over the players and coaches, I gained some perspective on just how exclusive this group really was, and the significance of the honor started to sink in for the first time. The list was staggering, with every name a part of the game’s storied history. I knew only a few of them personally other than as opponents. After viewing and reviewing the list, one name stood out among the rest, Isiah Thomas.

Even though we had mostly battled each other for years, I had always admired him and felt a natural kinship as little men in a league of giants. He also had greatly impacted my career on numerous occasions. Isiah’s unquestioned success helped open the door for me and other shorter players while setting the performance bar extraordinarily high.

I got his phone number from Fran and nervously dialed. Not anxious to identify myself until I was certain I had the right number, I spoke cautiously with his wife. Once security clearances were met on both sides, I offered her my number to give to Isiah. When he and I eventually talked, the request went better than I could have hoped. Along with an enjoyable conversation, he accepted with a vow to help me enjoy the weekend. I felt honored by his acceptance and looked forward to him joining me on stage on induction night.

Our next duty was to compile a list of people who were to receive an invitation to the induction ceremonies. I thought we could just use the Christmas card list my wife, Nada, kept. But it wasn’t that easy, due largely to Michael Jordan’s popularity. With him as a classmate, tickets were at a premium. There was only so much room at the inn. 

The demand for tickets was understandable. Michael had achieved a status clearly above nearly every other athlete in the entire world. From my vantage point, he wore his fame very well. Michael knew who he was and what he represented to a very large audience, including kids. He consistently treated my family like part of his own. He shared time and insights with them—always with class. I had suffered painful defeats at his hands over the years, but I also looked back on some great times at the Olympics in ’92, along with the usual seasonal contests. I can only express gratitude to Michael for always bringing his A game. He accepted challenges every year as a true champion. I was honored to be a classmate of his in the Hall of Fame.

To accommodate the increased demand, we were all limited to fifty invitations. I wondered how we could possibly comply. My immediate family gobbled up the first eleven tickets, which made no provision for Nada’s immense clan. We accepted that we could only touch the tip of the iceberg.

I held my breath as I turned in the list, apprehensive about fallout. I knew I had excluded many people. I wish I could have sent out a hundred more invitations, though I wondered at the same time if anyone would really come. Most of my guests hailed from the West Coast, so I anticipated that the cost of travel and the whopping $1,000 ticket prices would curb everyone’s appetite to attend. To my surprise, that wasn’t the case.

Over the next couple of weeks, I got a taste of the magnitude of the upcoming induction. Phone calls poured in thanking me for invitations. Many vowed not to miss the once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Frankly, I was floored by the response. I began wondering, Just how big a deal is this?

Just how big a deal is this?

That answer was becoming clear. For the first time, the ceremony would be broadcast around the world on live television. The venue itself was moved to Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, to allow more seating. Even the Hall of Fame personnel knew they were traveling in uncharted territory.

With preobligation timetables fulfilled and travel details arranged and met, I had one last item to attend to—my acceptance speech. Preparing for my last fifteen minutes in the spotlight took more than a couple of weeks, working around the end of summer fun and the start of school activities for the kids. I have kind of a backward system for drafting a speech. I write down ideas as they come to me, in no particular order. When I begin to like what I have scratched out, I put it into an outline form. (Most people organize their thoughts with an outline and work in the other direction.) I recently had had to scrap another normal habit of writing notes on index cards. A strange thing had happened since reaching my mid-forties. The keen eyesight that I had treasured for four decades had begun to blur, maddeningly. I settled on full sheets of paper with large print in lieu of busting out the spectacles on national television.

I also refused to use the teleprompter they offered. I didn’t want my first attempt at using the gadgetry to be in front of millions of viewers. I could see myself squinting at the teleprompter while someone backstage with a perverse sense of humor altered the scroll. I opted instead to trust my own methods. I practiced my speech countless times alone and in front of Nada.

None of these preparations translated into confidence, however. Free throws at the end of even the biggest games seemed much easier in comparison than the task before me. The heavy pit in my stomach was growing. I needed more practice.

Unfortunately, Hall of Fame activities kept all the inductees busy. Interviews for posterity, live appearances, speeches to school assemblies, dinners, and receptions filled the weekend leading up to the induction. The demands of being whisked from one event to another left little downtime or even a private place to practice my speech.

• • •

The dates worked out for my whole family to be able to attend. My oldest son, Houston, joined us late, as his football season at the University of Montana had just begun. A shoulder injury had temporarily sidelined him but provided a day or two to join us in Springfield. His coming completed the weekend for me personally, even though I knew that being injured and separated from his team bothered him. We made the best of the opportunity to enjoy the big event together.

The events of the week turned into a long-overdue reunion as friends and family from Salt Lake, Spokane, the Jazz organization, the broader NBA, Gonzaga, and USA Basketball popped up around every turn. This convergence of people from these different worlds was probably the most fun for me. After his arrival, Coach Jerry Sloan often served as a lightning rod without trying to do so. He not only attracted but entertained these eclectic audiences with great stories and unfiltered commentary. My older sons and nephews still talk about his stories. Jerry held court for hours. Even current NBA players such as Glen “Big Baby” Davis enjoyed listening to Coach.

It’s an odd phenomenon when I come across other NBA players, past or present, after being retired for a while. Even if we weren’t friends before, a kinship forms with the cooling of competitive fires. We share a unique camaraderie that immediately binds us together. It’s not every day that NBA players frequent Spokane, so when I saw them at gatherings such as those in Springfield, it was a special treat.

Most of the weekend’s events were a mixture of responsibilities and fun. A reception held at the actual Hall of Fame the night before the induction is a perfect example. The Hall was packed and everyone came handsomely dressed and in good spirits. A live band and a dance floor were surrounded by food and refreshments, setting a festive atmosphere. During the weekend I bumped into several old Gonzaga teammates and their wives. We snapped a lot of pictures and comfortably shot the breeze as only old friends can do. One after another, I continued to see pals from my past and took the chance to catch up on lost time.

As I was enjoying the elegance and nostalgia of these festivities, the evening was interrupted by a clever ruse. A very pregnant young woman approached me to say hello and congratulate me on my induction. I was totally distracted by her beauty and her delicate condition until this “expectant mother” suddenly “gave birth” to the basketball and black marker she had concealed under her blouse. Signing autographs was not permitted at this function, but the miraculous “delivery” didn’t spoil my evening in any way. However, concern over my looming speech continued to gnaw at my stomach, so we decided to gather up the troops and head back to the hotel early.

I don’t recall all the events leading up to the induction ceremony, but one amazing thing has stayed with me. Two of my longtime friends, Greg Byrd and Steve Brown, were in town. The three of us had attended high school together. Greg and Steve were having lunch, trying to recollect the name of a very large African-American man who was seated at the table next to them in the hotel restaurant. They were convinced he was a former NBA great, but couldn’t identify him. Eventually, they worked up the courage to ask him to resolve their memory lapse. Bob Lanier playfully gave them a hard time before confirming that their hunch was correct. After chatting for a while with the two complete strangers, Bob found out that Steve did not have a ticket to the induction ceremony. He excused himself, said good-bye, and walked away. A few minutes later Bob returned and presented Steve with a ticket to the ceremony, free of charge.

Steve was in Springfield on a business trip that coincided with the Hall of Fame activities. He was invited to the festivities but somehow didn’t end up with a ticket to the induction ceremony. I had talked to him several times that weekend and assumed that he was there for the event and had a ticket. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. When Greg and Steve later told me their lunchtime story, I was amazed by Bob Lanier’s generosity to a complete stranger. I cringed at the thought that Steve would have traveled all that way and missed the ceremony had the former NBA player not intervened. I was grateful to be told about Bob Lanier’s generosity. Steve is definitely someone who needed to be there!

• • •

As my family was dressing in tuxedos and gowns for the big night, the pit in my stomach was inching up to lodge in my throat. We left the hotel for the short ride to Symphony Hall in a cream-colored Rolls-Royce. To preserve the regal appearance of our motorcade, our children were asked to ride in a car behind us. There was only one glitch in these perfectly laid plans—Uncle Nick. Everyone has an “Uncle Nick.” He is the guy who crashes parties, shows up consistently where he shouldn’t, and involves himself in every conversation while inexplicably endearing himself to those who should be most offended. Nada’s brother Nick is that guy and was riding with Nada and me in our car. As we rolled up to the red carpet, the first one out of the car amid the camera flashes and bright lights was Nick, smiling and waving like a polished Hollywood veteran. The kids’ car pulled in behind the three of us in time to see their uncle’s performance. The spectacle of Nick lumbering importantly up the stairs makes me chuckle now, but his grand entrance added a fair amount of tension at the time.

Navigating the sea of people crowding the entrance to Symphony Hall, I recognized the faces of famous people on every side, and I suddenly experienced a feeling of awe. On my left was a veritable Who’s Who of NBA legends, filling row after row. On my right, family and friends made up the cast of a This Is Your Life episode—each standing to say hello as I passed. I felt myself flush, realizing how important this day was to so many people. The pressure intensified as thoughts of my upcoming speech once again intruded.

With my whole world seemingly at my side and the rest of the world tuning in, I listened to a brilliant acceptance speech by David Robinson. Friendly, confident, and seeming completely at ease, he delivered a heartfelt and genuine oration without the aid of notes or a teleprompter. I was so impressed with David that I began to think of twenty ways I should change my own remarks. Sensing my distress, Nada tapped me on the hand, smiled, and whispered, “Yours is good. Just go ahead with it.” She helped me more with those few words than she will ever know.

It was finally my turn. I walked up the stairs with my poster-sized notes to face the music before the world. As I was standing at the podium with Isiah at my side, I scanned the crowd through the glare of the lights and realized I was glimpsing a mosaic of my life. There they all were—so many of the people who had helped me to this unimaginable pinnacle of achievement. Nada, my beautiful wife and trusty sidekick of twenty-three years; all the kids, the oldest boys now men; Dad, older but not too old to continue as the family’s Rock of Gibraltar; my brother with his wife, Mary Ann, and two of their three grown sons: Steve Jr. and Shawn; my two sisters, Stacey and Leanne, the nearest things to earthly guardian angels that anyone could have. Only Mom was missing from her reserved seat. I am certain she was at our side as always—steady, strong, and proud of her family. Beyond stretched rows of people who had helped me through my life, many step by step, to the actual spot upon which I now stood—too many to thank in my allotted few minutes.

Even with my king-sized notes, I managed to leave out people who were important to me who had been specifically scripted into my outline. For instance, I omitted a group of ladies who have a special place in my life—the Sisters of the Holy Names—who had helped raise me. In fact, only minutes before I left the hotel, I had received a basketball autographed by each sister at the convent with her prayers and good wishes. Though I forgot to acknowledge them in my remarks, I hope they know that I always hold them in my heart. Overall, the speech went well without any major glitches. It helped that the crowd laughed once when I wasn’t trying to be funny.

The relief I felt as I descended the stairs from the stage was nothing short of liberating. The smile couldn’t have been kicked off of my face. I could barely muster a reserve befitting my tuxedo. I couldn’t think of anything but how happy I was to be finished with that speech!

In the wake of my joy, Coach Sloan was walking to the podium. Jerry had to walk ten miles to and from school every day as a boy, but watching him trudge up those stairs, I wondered if this wasn’t the longest walk of his life. Probably nobody understood at that moment what he was feeling more than me. I tried to get his attention to give him a grin or a pat on the back, but his course toward the podium was fixed. He was zeroed in on his task at that point. All I could do was listen—and enjoy.

His words were those of a genuinely humble man. With the simplicity of his homespun delivery, he told stories of his life in southern Illinois as a boy and a young man. Everyone in attendance was captivated. I particularly enjoyed one part where he told the audience about playing for the Evansville Purple Aces while glancing up from his notes to deadpan, “Our jerseys were orange.” Given everything he and I had been through together, sharing this evening with him made for some very special icing on the cake.

• • •

My 2009 induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame was an improbable and remarkable event for me. It capped off a career I had not anticipated. I often tell people who dream of being in the NBA that nobody, I mean nobody, was less likely to realize that dream than me. In light of this fact, I usually suggest to them, “Go for it. Dreams do come true.”

Following the induction ceremony, all of the Hall of Famers in attendance joined the newcomers on the stage. There were a record number of prior inductees in the audience that night, so the onstage meeting was an historical event as well. Milling around with some of the best players to ever take the court, I canvassed the remaining crowd one last time and reflected on how this night had come to be. Looking out at the people who remained in the audience only confirmed what I already knew: my success was a result of a collective effort. I was the beneficiary of a force much larger than myself. It’s only appropriate that I start from the beginning to tell many of the stories that made that honor possible.

Good memories

by  rhonda  -   reviewed on  October 29, 2013

5 STARS I found myself reading and enjoying to get to know more about the player John Stockton. It also brought lots of memories to my mind. Like the shot that sent them to the finals. Had to wear purple that week. How when I used to watch the Jazz games my little girl loved it when they announced Stockton to Malone. This is a easy to follow book. I did not want to put it down. I liked how hard he worked and the values that John Stockton has. It shows some good insights in life lessons. This is a book for sports fans, for inspiring people of all ages to go for your dreams with hard work. For the young and old. For men and woman to enjoy. I think a broad range of people will enjoy John's story. As a fan of Jazz basketball thank you for your hard work. We are glad you played in Utah for so long. You represented the Jazz and USA Dream teams well. I admit to stop watching the Jazz after you than Karl left. It was not as much fun without you. I liked getting to know your family better and how important they are to you. Thanks for letting us see your journey and meeting your friends. I liked the background of how much it meant to be on the Olympics team meant for you. I find it hard to believe that no one recognized you in Spain. Especially wearing a t-shirt with your picture on it. It was fun to see the pictures. Hear the stories and see how technology is changing the game. Too see how much you love the game and how it was always watching and learning to be better. I was given this ebook to read by NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing and asked in return to give honest review of it. Pub Date Oct. 29, 2013 Shadow Mountain Publishing 400 pages ISBN:9781609075705

Great for kids and parents

by  Customer  -   reviewed on  November 04, 2013

I like reading autobiographies especially about people that I really don't know much about, or were never revealing. That's why this book is great and lives up to it's title. Not only is he a hall of fame point guard, but he did it the right way, making others around him better. Great book to thank all those that helped him become the man he is, and it's a message that is so needed today. Kids and adults would be wise to remember - work hard, be humble, make family a priority and make those around you better! BTW...loved the tidbits of why John chose Isaiah Thomas to intro him into the hall, the Dream Team memories & forward by Karl Malone!

Great read from best Jazz player ever!

by  Norm  -   reviewed on  November 04, 2013

This book is a awesome. John Stockton is the most humble NBA player of all time. All he talks about in this book are the people who helped him be great. I loved this book, and I want my sons to be like John Stockton!

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