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Thursday, August 8
Updated: August 12, 8:08 AM ET
Utah's Stockton: 40 and still going strong

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- John Stockton has informed the Utah Jazz that he will play a 19th season beginning this fall.

John Stockton

"I still love to play basketball," he said.

Stockton will become just the second guard -- and 10th player -- in NBA history to open a season after his 40th birthday. In 1996, guard John Long started the season with Toronto as a 40-year-old, but had limited playing time.

Stockton, the league's all-time steals and assists leader, averaged 13.4 points last season, his highest average in five seasons, and made 51.7 percent of his shots -- fifth best in the NBA.

"I wouldn't say he stepped up his game, because he was already playing at such a high level," said Kevin O'Connor, Jazz vice president of basketball operations.

"I would say we needed him more. We counted on him to do more things," O'Connor told the Salt Lake Tribune.

There has been considerable speculation this summer as to whether Stockton would return.

"I haven't been dwelling on it," Stockton said. "We've talked many times (with the Jazz), but we just let the summer go by, as we always do."

He said his wife and six children played a major role in his decision-making.

"It's always a factor because you're planning for eight instead of just one," he said.

Coach Jerry Sloan, who got the news Wednesday afternoon in a phone call from Stockton, said he was not surprised.

"I've seen him play, I've seen him practice, I've seen what the game has been about for him, how he comes to play," Sloan said. "I've seen how he takes care of himself, so I'm not surprised at all."

Stockton will have a new protege this fall in guard Raul Lopez of Spain.

"John can't turn Lopez into John Stockton. He can only set an example and then it's up to him," Sloan said. "But if you wanted to learn, and study how to approach the game, he's the consummate guy to follow."

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