Welcome to the NBA 75, The Athletic’s countdown of the 75 best players in NBA history, in honor of the league’s diamond anniversary. We’ll unveil a brand new participant on the checklist each weekday via Feb. 18, culminating with the person picked by a panel of The Athletic NBA employees members as the best of all time.

The telephone rang earlier than dawn, its peal shattering the tranquility of a quiet summer time pre-dawn in Spokane Valley, the place John Stockton returned residence throughout every NBA offseason.

Stockton fumbled for the telephone and was greeted with a well-recognized, booming drawl.

“You getting your work done, son?” Karl Malone bellowed, the clang of metal plates colliding within the background. “Because I am.”

Stockton appeared on the clock and did fast math. It wasn’t fairly 6 a.m. in Arkansas, the place his Utah Jazz teammate spent components of his summer time. At residence in Washington, Stockton was two hours behind.

For probably the most celebrated pick-and-roll duo in basketball historical past, this was a distinct type of two-man recreation. Stockton most well-liked to work out at night time and would return the favor with a mid-session name to evoke the resting Malone.

It was brotherly pranking. Malone-to-Stockton, Stockton-to-Malone.

“That was kind of a fun way to jab at each other,” Stockton instructed The Athletic, “and ensure we’re each doing our work.



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