Anyway, the point is this: It wasn't John Stockton of the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups who was on his way to the NBA a dozen years ago. It wasn't John Stockton, even though Rypien, a former point guard himself, seems to recall that Stockton once went for 42 against him in a Shadle-Gonzaga Prep showdown. "The only person in the world who thought John would play in the NBA was John," says Jack. "And that's the god's honest truth."
Stockton still holds a grade school record in Spokane for running the mile, a record he set in eighth grade at St. Aloysius. St. Aloysius, Gonzaga Prep, then Gonzaga University—the boy attended the same three schools that his father did. Bing Crosby, who also grew up in this neighborhood and also attended Gonzaga, stands in bronze on the college's campus, with a golf bag at his feet and what appears to be a cigarette butt in his mouth. (It is actually the remnant of a pipe, which is snapped off and stolen from Der Bingle's mouth monthly.) But if they ever erect a statue of John Stockton on these grounds, it will be in brass. They can melt down the actual John Stockton for raw material, for brass is what got him from boyhood to Barcelona.
"He takes losing personally," says Jeff Condill, 28, John's close friend, college teammate and co-owner of Jack & Dan's ever since he bought out Dan Crowley a year ago. "Whatever he plays, Ping-Pong, golf, lawn darts. He holds the Jazz record on the treadmill, and he wants to defend that title every year."
Still, John Stockton would most likely rather lose in lawn darts than be interviewed. We would have asked him to confirm that, but he was too busy playing Sam-I-am to our green eggs and ham. Talk to us? He would not, could not, in the bar. He would not, could not, in his car. He would not, could not, at the gym. We would not, could not, speak to him. Jack, Jeff, his agents at ProServ, the publicity department of the Jazz and the Washington National Guard could not prevail upon him, either.
Stockton has an aversion to making public appearances, on behalf of the Jazz or on behalf of Nike. He was supposed to appear in that poster with Rypien and Sandberg back in 1990, for a three-on-three basketball tournament, but he backed out of it when he thought organizers had lied to him about something or other. He never used to have ballboys pull his car around to the back of the Delta Center, where the Jazz play, but he does now, no longer willing to brave the parking lot.
And so what? It isn't as if the guy has gone completely Garbo: When he isn't spending summer days with his wife and three children at their cabin, an hour from Spokane on Priest Lake, he might be conducting his annual basketball camp for kids. He is close to just about anyone who has ever coached him, tighter than the insides of a Titleist with his family. He still sees people, for god's sake—it's sports-writers he could live through the summer without.
He wouldn't hold the NBA single-season record for assists if he weren't selfless, would he? What is Stockton doing while he isn't talking to us? He is helping an old friend, the Gonzaga trainer, build a house.
"He really is a people person," says Condill. "His family is his first priority. He became more private when he started a family. I think seven or eight years from now, he'll probably come back around the other way."
Most of Spokane knows where to find him, anyway. It's no secret that Stockton makes his home next door to the one he grew up in. Sure, he has a house in Utah, too, but the reason he so loves Salt Lake City, says his father, is that it reminds him of Spokane: easygoing, laid-back.
Nevertheless, when you are a civic bauble, you are always on display in a jeweler's glass case: Not long ago, in Spokane, Stockton was asked for his autograph at a funeral he was attending.