Battle of Hall of Famers: Kareem Calls Out Stockton’s Mask Mandate Defiance

It’s time to Break It Down!

Covid-19 has run rampant throughout the United States. The issue has divided the nation into masking vs. anti-masking, and vaxxers vs. anti-vaxxers. One of the latest controversies to emerge is Gonzaga University suspending the season tickets of its most famous alum, NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton. While the current rage in NBA circles centers on The LeBron vs. Jordan GOAT Debate, most of us have forgotten just how much Stockton brought to the game.

To provide context, while no one suggests he is the GOAT, Stockton’s imprint is lasting. He has one, possibly two records that may never be broken, in addition to his ironman legacy. First, he amassed 15,806 assists. For perspective, the active assist leader, Chris Paul, has 8,672 assists after 16 seasons. Stockton has 3,715 more than Jason Kidd, who is in second place. It’s often said, records are made to be broken. Chances are, if the NBA assist record is ever broken, it will be by someone not yet playing in the League. Stockton also has a healthy lead in NBA steals, a category in which he accumulated 3,265. Chris Paul is also the active leader in that category, with 2,002. Also, as with assists, Jason Kidd holds down the Number 2 spot, with 2,684. The separation is not as great here, but keep in mind, Kidd has been retired for more than 8 years. Chris Paul doesn’t have that many active years left. Someone may surpass him, but it won’t be Paul. Finally, in a category that is difficult to even fathom, Stockton played 16 seasons without missing a game, and played all 82 games in 17 of his 19 seasons. That doesn’t even account for playoff games.

As impressive as Stockton’s metrics are, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly Lew Alcindor, is, or at least should be, in the discussion for GOAT. When he retired, he was the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, with 38,387 points. Sidenote, LeBron James may actually play long enough to surpass Jabbar’s point total. However, Kareem also won a league-record six MVP awards, six championship rings, two Finals MVP awards, 15 NBA First or Second Teams, and a record 19 NBA All-Star Games. He was a two-time NBA Scoring Leader, and a four-time NBA Blocks Leader, the 1970 Rookie-of-the-Year, and holds Retired Jerseys in Milwaukee and Los Angeles…to go along with a statue in front of what was the Staples Center, now the Arena.  

So, what made this relative stat comparison germane? Here’s how it started.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Stockton confirmed he is no longer allowed to attend basketball games at Gonzaga University, his alma mater, because he refuses to comply with the school’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The NBA’s all-time assist leader starred at Gonzaga for four seasons from 1980-84 before a 19-year Hall of Fame career with the Utah Jazz.

In first person, Stockton described it this way:

“Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit. And therefore, they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups — those weren’t discussed, but from whatever it was higher up — they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”

The 59-year-old, who appeared in a documentary last year promoting COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories, also asserted that more than 100 professional athletes had died after taking the vaccine. 

While there is no scientific data that supports Stockton’s claims, this is what he asserted:

“I think it’s highly recorded now, there’s 150 I believe now, it’s over 100 professional athletes dead — professional athletes — the prime of their life, dropping dead that are vaccinated, right on the pitch, right on the field, right on the court.”

That’s where Kareem entered the discussion.

Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized Stockton for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. The NBA legend, who has been an outspoken advocate for the vaccines, previously called out Lakers star LeBron James for comparing COVID-19 to other illnesses.

Of Stockton, he said, “I think statements like [Stockton’s] make the public look upon athletes as basically dumb jocks for trying to explain away something that is obviously a pandemic, and the best way to fight pandemics is through vaccination and testing. Those are the means by which we identify the problem and do our best to mitigate it.

I don’t understand anyone saying anything else that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense what he’s saying. This is a preventative measure that has been useful in many different circumstances.”

I’ve have tried to remove myself from the center of this debate. Principally, I decided that I would no longer argue with adults about their need to take steps to protect their health, not to mention the health and well-being of those who they love, and who love them. I can now take comfort in the NBA’s leading scorer doing it for me. “Battle Of Hall Of Famers: Kareem Calls Out Stockton’s Mask Mandate Defiance!”

I’m done; holla back!

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