Karl Malone and John Stockton. John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Those words were used interchangeably countless times from 1985 to 2003, the years that two of the all-time greats were teammates in Utah. Yes, although they never won a championship, Stockton and Malone formed one of the greatest duos in NBA history. Malone ranks second all-time with 36,928 points, and Stockton ranks first with 15,806 assists – 3,715 more than Jason Kidd (12,091), who ranks second.

Karl Malone and John Stockton. John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Who made the other one better? Who was the engine in that relationship?

“Well, first and foremost, sometimes I played with two right hands and two left shoes,” Malone said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m saying that to say I couldn’t have brought the ball down and did it myself, so I would have to give the nod to John Stockton. He gave me the ball. And I’m not just saying it for political reasons. I’m saying that because it’s real to me. John Stockton, to me, is the best that ever did it. I had the opportunity to play with him for 18 unbelievable years of my career.”

And yet, the two players who would define the franchise met before they were teammates.

“How crazy is this?” Malone asked. “We met at Olympic trials in Indiana. We both got cut, and all these people were in the lunch room. Him and I went to the same table at the same time. He got drafted the year before me. The rest is history.”

Stockton and Malone led the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1996-97 and 1997-98, losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls both times in six games.

Malone ended his career sixth on the all-time rebounding list, with 14,968. Stockton retired first in steals (3,265).

“What a competitor he was,” Malone said. “I would have to say I couldn’t have done it without John Stockton.”

In other news, Malone was asked about his seemingly combative relationship with Kobe Bryant, who claims Malone made a pass at his wife, Vanessa, in 2004. Malone was asked about the incident this week and seemed to challenge Bryant to a fight, saying that Bryant had a “standing” offer to “just knuckle up and get it over with.”

Was that a challenge?

“Listen, I did not say I wanted to fight him,” the 51-year-old Malone said. “I said back in the Western days, if you have an issue, you knuckle up and settle it. I’m not a fighter, guys. That happened 11 years ago. He brought it up, and I answered it. It’s over with, done with. I don’t have a problem, so I don’t want to fight anybody. I don’t want no trouble, guys.”

In other words, Malone isn’t looking for a fight, but he’s not going to run from one, either.

“Guys, let me ask you a question,” he said. “Anybody going out there looking for a fight? I’m saying, I’m a man, you’re a man, that’s the way life is. I don’t want no trouble. That was 11 years ago. He brought it up again, and I answered it. I don’t have a beef with Kobe. If he had one with me, it’s his issue. But guys, been there, done that. I don’t want to fight. I’m a loving, peaceful young man.”


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