Volume 91, Issue 66
Tuesday, January 27, 1998
All that Jazz
While the hype of the Super Bowl had everyone and their mothers rushing around Sunday afternoon for dip and chips, the greatest duo in National Basketball Association history were destroying yet another competitor. Utah's Karl Malone and John Stockton spent the day running over the Bulls 101-94 to break Chicago's 17-game home winning streak.
The victory was sweet revenge for the pair, who fell to an experienced and powerful Bull's team in last season's championship series. Once denied the chance to hoist the championship trophy, Sunday's results are just another example of how determined the duo is on returning to the pinnacle of sport for another shot at the title. Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway proved Sunday at the Super Bowl that nice guys don't always finish last and this pair from Utah hopes to back up that claim together.
Their one-two punch has been dazzling Salt Lake City and NBA fans for 13 years, but has not been fully appreciated until this season. Heading into the season with high expectation, a pre-season leg injury sidelining point guard Stockton for the first month, put the dream on hold. Lacking the familiarity of his dynamic passing and panoramic court vision, the Jazz, including Malone, did not possess the well-oiled mechanics the team had become accustomed to. The result was the Jazz were unable to explode out of the gates, lacking the scoring punch that it had taken over a decade to polish.
Now with the return of the NBA's all-time assist leader, Stockton, the team has climbed back into first place in the MidWest and appears ready to steamroll over the rest of the league for the remainder of the season.
Forget about Jordan and Pippen or Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar, in the history of the league there has never been a more deadly combination than Malone and Stockton. They have driven each other to the highest levels.
With the scoring touch of Malone, Stockton was able to perfect the point guard position. Quietly breaking Laker legend Magic Johnson's assist record years ago, Stockton appears focused on putting the record out of reach for eternity 12,369 assists are currently credited to him.
At the same time, Malone has established the criteria for being a power forward. With his linebacker body and the pinpoint passing from Stockton, the muscular forward is 10th in NBA history for scoring and currently sits in second this season behind the Bull's Michael Jordan in points per game.
Without the shared talents, skills and experiences, it is doubtful either of these great athletes would have ever become the legends they will be remembered as for decades after their retirement.
While this season and the future looks bright for the pair, the history these two individuals have built is beyond the realm of sport. Both were drafted from the college ranking in the first round with only a year separating them (Malone in 1985 and Stockton in 1984). At first glance, no fan would perceive these two would meld together into the weapon they have become. One a quiet, short point guard from Gonzaga University, the other a hulking and outspoken power forward from Louisiana State University.
Time has proven the critics wrong. Together the two have stayed in Utah ignoring the bright lights and fame of more commercial destinations and built one of the most powerful teams in the league. Two Olympic gold medals hang in each of their trophy cases. Together they were both named Most Valuable Player at the 1989 All-Star Game. Together they have once tasted the thrill of the championship series. Together they plan to return and walk away champions.
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