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Center court: Stock portfolio

Jazz point guard's legacy tied to his incredible longevity

There may never be another John Stockton.

The statistical totals he has amassed are so far beyond what anyone before him has managed that they must be considered virtually unattainable.

And this isn't another article about his assists and steals totals, which are tops in NBA history and assure him a berth in the Hall of Fame.

This is about his incredible longevity.

Almost unnoticed, the Jazz point guard has played more games than any guard in league annals.

By the end of this season — and if he plays in every remaining game — Stockton will have appeared in 1,340 NBA games, making him third on the all-time list, behind only Robert Parish, at 1,611, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at 1,560.

If Stockton comes back for an 18th season — and he said just a few days ago he will — he will tie Tree Rollins, Rick Mahorn, Danny Schayes, Herb Williams and Terry Cummings for fifth place all-time in seasons played.

Ahead of him will be Parish, who played 21 seasons; Abdul-Jabbar, 20 seasons; Moses Malone and James Edwards, 19 seasons each.

If you know the NBA, you probably noticed that all the other players in Stockton's games-played and seasons-played neighborhood are big men. Centers and power forwards tend to last longer than guards, because they can still lumber up and down the court and be reasonably effective at an advanced age.

But a guard's game is based on quickness, speed, reflexes — attributes in rare supply among the 35-plus set.

Which is why it's highly unlikely we will ever see another John Stockton.

Look at the chart. It features 19 of the NBA's most storied guards, and 14 of those were retired before age 36. Magic Johnson, who came back from a four-year hiatus to play a final season, and Maurice Cheeks, were 36 when they retired. Derek Harper and Lenny Wilkens retired at 37.

Stockton has played nearly two full seasons more than his nearest guard peer. Oscar Robertson played more minutes, but if Stockton plays another season he will surpass Robertson's total, too.

And Stockton's case is not one of a once-proud athlete merely playing out his string. Most of the athletes on the chart were ineffective or even downright washed-up in their concluding campaigns. But Stockton this season ranks second in the NBA in assists per game and three-point percentage, eighth in field-goal percentage and tenth in steals per game.

Many athletes have played seasons beyond what's reasonably expected for their position, but rarely have those players been more than shadows of what they were in their prime.

Stockton is slowing down, but the process is happening so gradually as to be almost imperceptible.

Any way you look at it, Stockton is a marvel.