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Fans Salute John Stockton

Fans Salute John Stockton

Posted - Jun. 7, 2003 at 6:07 p.m.



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Tom Kirkland reporting Utahns joined together Saturday night to celebrate 19 years of intense effort and incredible play from the best pure point guard in NBA history in a "Salute to John Stockton".

The epic salute brought thousands of Jazz fans down to the Delta Center to join in the festivities inside and out.

How do you say thanks to a man who's anchored the Utah Jazz franchise to the NBA map?

Thirty-six days ago, John Stockton surprised us all by blurting out the 'Oh, by the way, I'm retiring' line the day after the season ended. Fans said, 'What about us? When do we get a chance to pay homage?'

Well, that chance came Saturday night.

It started with gifts and proclamations, from the President of the United States, right on down. Signs of love were everywhere, and now his sign welcomes us all to Stock's old stomping ground.

Words of praise bellowed throughout the packed house, from NBA Commissioner David Stern, and John's coach for 15 seasons, Jerry Sloan.

Amid shouts of "Karl, please come back," John's Hall of Fame running mate for 18 seasons was also in tears.

And finally, the man of the hour and of the past 19 seasons-- John Stockton spoke to the crowd.

"I have played in empty arenas, and it isn't much fun. We've never done that here. We have always played to a full house, and it's been a blast."

Sammy Linebaugh reporting

Fans came from near and far to honor John Stockton. Many of them spent the day on the Delta Center plaza just to make sure they got a seat to say goodbye.

Thousands made the mad rush when Delta Center doors opened Saturday afternoon. Some camped out early Saturday morning, just to secure a spot inside.

Scott Robinson/ Morgan, Utah: "I'VE BEEN WATCHING STOCKTON SINCE HIS ROOKY YEAR -- WHAT HE'S GIVEN TO THIS CITY AND HOW THE CROWD HAS REALLY RESPONDED TO HIM. I JUST WANTED TO WATCH HIM GO OUT IN STYLE."

Mari-Jo Ortega/ Drove from California: "I'M FROM L.A. YOU'D THINK I'D BE A LAKER FAN BUT I'M NOT. THEY THINK, WHY UTAH? AND I SAY JOHN STOCKTON. I FOLLOW THE JAZZ BECAUSE OF JOHN STOCKTON."

His following, in all, spans nearly two decades...19 straight playoffs.

And Saturday night, his accomplishments were all over their faces.

Holly Harris/ Salt Lake City: "I WAS BAWLING. I WAS TOTALLY CRYING. IT'S JUST SO EMOTIONAL BECAUSE HE'S JUST DONE SO MUCH FOR THE STATE OF UTAH."

Kent Thomas/ Salt Lake City: "I JUST FELT PROUD OF THE FELLA. JOHN'S SUCH A GREAT GUY."

He is an all-star by any standard. The kind of player, fans say, who came through in the clutch -- and made it look easy.

A smile was something...this moment, worth millions.

(Sound of announcer): "...STOCKTON SENDS THE UTAH JAZZ TO THE NBA FINALS."

"I THINK THE WHOLE STATE--MY MOM SAYS SHE WAS IN THE SUPERMARKET AND THE WHOLE SUPERMARKET STARTED YELLING AND SCREAMING."

Afton Thomas/ Salt Lake City: "YOU JUST KNEW IF STOCK HAD THE BALL IN HIS HANDS, IT WAS IN GOOD HANDS."

As if to steal hearts one last time, Stockton finished his speech Saturday night by thanking the fans, paying tribute to the community who will forever see the pointguard from Gonzaga as one of its own.

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