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News » Fans look back on days of Jazz Hall of Famers: Stockton, Sloan provided plenty of fond memories

Fans look back on days of Jazz Hall of Famers: Stockton, Sloan provided plenty of fond memories

Fans look back on days of Jazz Hall of Famers: Stockton, Sloan provided plenty of fond memories Upon learning the Utah Jazz selected John Stockton with their first-round pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, Colin Taufer reacted to the news in a way that mirrored how many Jazz fans reacted that day. Taufer was in downtown Salt Lake City on draft day. While his father ran errands, Taufer turned on the radio to search for any update on the draft he could find. Hearing Stockton had been drafted by Utah did not stir up feelings of excitement for him ?

especially since then-starting point guard Rickey Green was already one of his favorite Jazz players. "When I heard they drafted Stockton, I was decidedly underwhelmed and, in fact, like most everyone, had no idea who he was," said Taufer, now a resident of Clearwater, Fla. Like most Jazz fans, however, when Taufer thinks of Stockton now, much different thoughts come to mind. For him, Stockton will forever be remembered as a world-class point guard and one of the NBA's all-time greatest players. "Other very good point guards came and went, but for two decades he was the man," Taufer said. "A rarity in any major league sport." Stockton's contributions to the success of the Utah Jazz will be recognized when he is enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend along with current Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. Once in a Jazz uniform, Stockton quickly won over fans with his work ethic, solid defensive play and precision passing. He also left a lasting impression by leading fantastic comebacks and hitting dramatic last-second shots. One of the earliest memories Salt Lake City resident Tom Wilkinson has of Stockton is of a dramatic last-minute rally he fueled in a regular-season game against the Chicago Bulls during the 1989-90 season. That game, played on Nov. 15, 1989, saw the Bulls go up 107-100 on a basket by Michael Jordan with 40 seconds left. Stockton drained a 3-pointer two seconds later to cut the lead to four. It started a 8-0 game-ending rally ? capped off by Stockton when he made a layup over Jordan at the buzzer ? that lifted Utah to a 108-107 victory. When Wilkinson saw the play, he couldn't help feeling slightly mad at Stockton because he was somewhat of a Bulls fan as a child. But, even then, he admired Stockton's ability to take over a game when he needed to do so. "It was a classic moment," Wilkinson said. It set the stage for plenty of other dramatic finishes in Stockton's career ? reaching a penultimate moment with his game-winning 3-pointer over Charles Barkley that lifted Utah to a Western Conference Finals victory over Houston and sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history in 1997. Heber City resident Mike Bamgartner owns a photo of the hug Stockton shared with Karl Malone and Jeff Hornacek following the shot. Bamgartner remembers his family celebrating just as hard as the Jazz players and coaches did on the Rockets' home court that day. "We were just jumping up and down," Bamgartner said. "I got four boys and we were all watching it. Just to get into the finals ? they deserved it." Salt Lake City resident Mike Platt did not see the famous shot when it happened because he was on the road driving at the time. But he remembers listening to the game on the radio and instantly knowing it was no ordinary shot. "You had that feeling like it was just magic," Platt said. Hitting big shots or making a key assist at the right time was all it took for Stockton to win over the hearts and minds of Jazz fans. For many of them, his playmaking abilities were an extension of his willingness to do whatever it took to help Utah win. "Yeah, he had a lot of assists and he was probably the most unselfish player on the team," said Salt Lake City resident Brian Gillett. "But he also had an uncanny ability to know when he needed to take the team on his shoulders and basically hit the winning shot to help his team advance. " It seems appropriate to many Jazz fans that Sloan and Stockton will enter the Hall of Fame together, because their respective Basketball careers are so intertwined. Sloan benefited from having a player with Stockton's playmaking skills. But Stockton also flourished by playing under a coach who understood how to get the best out of his players. "I think Sloan knew Stockton's abilities and was able to get the best out of Stockton," Platt said. "And that's what a coach is supposed to do." When Frank Layden's sudden resignation elevated Sloan to the head coaching job a few games into the 1988-89 season, it caught several Jazz fans by surprise. Much more optimism surrounded the move than drafting Stockton, however, given Utah's success in the playoffs the year before and the fact that Sloan had an established history as a solid NBA player and capable assistant coach. "I was excited," Bamgartner said. "I thought it was a good move. I thought he deserved to be there and do it. I thought he had earned the right to do that." Sloan has endured criticism from a segment of Jazz fans in recent years, fans who question if he has been the head coach too long. But there are plenty of others who appreciate what he has done during his time in Utah and credit him with playing an important role in keeping Utah positioned as an annual playoff team. "He's such a hard-nosed, no-nonsense coach," Bamgartner said. "He expects a lot from his players and they step up to that." e-mail:

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Added: September 11, 2009


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