Sunday, August 10, 2014

Assisted: An Autobiography

As a kid, I was pop culture-challenged.  Who am I kidding here?  I still am.  That even extended into the sports world, and when my neighborhood friends and I would get together to play some basketball in our back yard or in a nearby driveway, it usually involved picking a team to be.  If the Jazz weren’t available by the time it was my turn to play, I was at a loss.  The Jazz were, to a certain extent, the limit of my knowledge of the NBA when I was a really young kid.  As I got older, though, they continued to be the true focus of my knowledge of the NBA.  I just wasn’t (and am not) interested in other teams, nor do I have the time to get into other teams or players.  I care about the Utah Jazz.  It was easy to become a Jazz fan with guys like Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Mark Eaton on the team.  They were all blue-collar guys, and it showed in the way they played.  I never wavered in my love for the Jazz, but I don’t hesitate at all to say that it has dropped off since Stockton and Malone are no longer playing.  They were special.  Stockton was also alluring as a role model, both on and off the court.  He was intensely private, but I always felt that he was not really hiding anything, and the even-keeled guy that “never dogged a play in [his] life” was the same guy we would see were we to see him off the court.

Book cover.Assisted: An Autobiography (ISBN: 978-1-60907-570-5) by John Stockton, if nothing else, proved me right in my assumption.  Memoir might be a better description of the book, but those arguments about semantics take nothing away from a rather thorough look at Stockton’s life as a little kid roaming the neighborhood with his friends on long summer days to his time as an NBA star and through his post-retirement activities.  He told about his upbringing, his childhood, his high school days, his experiences in college, including various summer jobs, basketball, and dating.  He talked about making it in the NBA, being a rookie, changes in the game, some of former Jazz owner Larry Miller’s quirks, and a host of other things that fans and disinterested parties alike might find interesting.  He talked about his family, and his parents and wife in particular.  He discussed a couple of his coaches, including Jerry Sloan, an NBA great and another hard-nosed, down-to-earth, blue-collar guy.  Stockton’s discussion of the Olympics was fascinating because he was very open about his love for his country and the great responsibility he felt putting U.S.A. on his chest.  He discussed his life after basketball, except that it hasn’t really been life after basketball as some of his kids of played at a very high level, he’s restored a warehouse and turned it into a community sports center, and he’s still involved in the occasional pickup game.  Finally, as part of the proving my assumptions true, his tale is woven throughout with references to family, God, prayer, hard work, and other old-fashioned values.

I wanted to read this book the moment I saw it existed.  Everyone knew John Stockton the leading assist man in the history of the world, but many felt they did’t know John Stockton the person.  Like I said, I figured he was kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person, but I was intrigued to read nevertheless.  The book was a draft of fresh air with each turn of a page.  Stockton comes across as down-to-earth, brutally honest about some of the mistakes he’s made and shortcomings he’s got, and, in a way, an everyday guy that other everyday guys can identify with.  Former Jazz coach Frank Layden, in a statement to the press when the Jazz drafted the unknown John Stockton, explained that he was Catholic and his dad owned a bar, so there really shouldn’t be any questions about him.  Stockton didn’t think that would go over in Utah, largely Mormon and largely dry.  I think he might’ve missed the point about those two characteristics equating to a person that was a good guy and that knew about old-fashioned work ethic.  Stockton proved to be that guy and probably more.  In a world fraught with vice like the NBA, Stockton was different and stepped up to the plate when it came to responsibility of being a role model that is inherent to the position.  His thoughts on other issues, like abortion and family, were also very refreshing coming from a public figure.  The book was well worth the time spend reading it and only solidified my respect for the greatest point guard ever to play the game.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXIV John Pruess.

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