These two point guards played the same exact game. They ran the pick and roll to perfection, they were pass first point guards, they were small, and they were very good shooters. In fact, they even had a dominant big man (Nash had Amare and Stockton had Malone). Unfortunately, neither has been able to win an NBA Championship. Stockton made it twice, while Nash has never made it. I have always wondered how similar they are, but how not many people have debated which one is better. Today I will be trying to answer my own question, and possibly your question. I will compare them in such categories as scoring, passing, defense, rebounding, and the finale. The finale will be made up of smaller categories. The finale involves anything, but stats, since someone cannot say one player is greater based only on stats.
Scoring: A lot of people would immediately pick Nash. This, however, I believe to be wrong. Nash only averages 14 PPG for his career, which is one PPG above Stockton. At their prime, Nash averaged at least 17 points 4 times, while Stockton averaged at least 17 points 3 times. Scoring on their own is important, but here are the stats that really matter. John Stockton's offensive rating (Points produced by player per 100 possessions) is 121. Steve Nash's offensive rating is 118. John Stockton's total offensive win share (total amount of win's produced due to a players offense) is 142.8. Steve Nash's total offensive share is 112.5. However, Stockton played 19 years while Nash has only played 17. So, I had to take away Stockton's last 2 seasons offensive win shares to consideration. Stockton still beats Nash with a total of 128.2. If I needed a scorer and someone to lead my team on offense, I would choose Stockton over Nash.
Passing: This is close. Nash and Stockton are both AMAZING passers. However, let's remember that when I say passing I mean being a good teammate, limiting turnovers, APG, and APG% (the percentage of teammate field goals assisted by a player). I don't mean being able to do behind the back passes or any form of fancy passing. What I mean is being efficient and leading the team to victory with open layups and jump shots. Both are great teammates so we can skip that category. John Stockton and Steve Nash both limit turnovers like no one else. They both average 3 turnovers per game and average 20 turnovers per 100 possessions. Stockton easily wins in the APG and APG%. Stockton led the league in assists 9 times, and APG% 15 times! Stockton is also the all time leader in assists in NBA history! Nash led the league in assists 5 times and APG% 5 times. Stockton wins this off of the stats.
Defense: Everyone knows who wins this. Nash truly struggles on defense, while Stockton get's physical and rugged. This is shown by Nash averaging at least 1 steal only 3 times and not having one defensive award. On the other hand, Stockton has led the league in steals twice and averaged at least one steal 19 times (He NEVER averaged less than one steal). Stockton also made all-defensive team 5 times compared to Nash never making it. By the way, John Stockton is the all time leader in steals in NBA history. Just thought I'd mention that.
Video of Stockton becoming all time steals leader:
Rebounding: This doesn't matter for them. They're both midgets in the NBA World.
Finale: In the finale I will compare MPG/GPS, shooting efficiency, leadership, clutch factor, diversity, and who knows how to win.
MPG/GPS: If there is an iron horse of basketball, it's John Stockton. John Stockton, in his 19 year history, only missed 22 games. In 1998, he missed 18 games. In 1990, he missed 4 four games. The lockout season was the only other season where Stockton didn't play 82 games (He played all 50 games possible that year). That means Stockton played all 82 games 16 times. 16! Nash has been plagued with injury and averages 65 games per season. Stockton easily wins the durability factor.
Advantage: John Stockton
Shooting Efficiency: Steve Nash easily wins this. Nash averages 42.8% from 3 point land and 90.3% from the free throw line. Stockton averages 38.4% from 3 point land and 82.6% from the free throw line. Stockton is still a good shooter, but not on Nash's level.
Leadership: I have to give this one to Nash. They are both coaches on the floor, but I have always seen Nash as the leader of the Suns. Stockton was never the big vocal leader of the Jazz (off the court). The Jazz never really had THAT guy, who led the team in press-conference appearances. Nash has been the vocal leader of the Suns and for years. Alvin Gentry, the coach of the Suns while Nash was playing with them, commented on Nash's leadership. Gentry said, "It (Leadership) started in training camp," Gentry said. "He (Nash) was just determined. He said, 'We're going to get back to where we were and I'm going to see to that.' (It's) true to form with what he's been able to do our team. I've said all along I thought he had a better year this year than any of the two years he won the MVP."
Clutch Factor: Stockton has to win this. He has hit countless buzzer beaters and has hit one of the most memorable game winners of all time. In the 1997 Western Conference Finals Game 6, he hit a buzzer beater to send the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history. Nash has some clutch shots here and there, but nowhere near the importance of Stockton's shots. Check out the video below to see what I mean:
Diversity: John has proven that he belongs here. He is a better scorer and passer and a better defender.
Advantage: John Stockton
Who Knows How to Win: You can't immediately say Stockton knows how to win more than Nash, because Stockton made 2 NBA Finals. Stockton had one of the greatest coaches of all time (Jerry Sloan), a great shooter (Jeff Hornacek), and oh ya, Karl Malone. Nash has had many different coaches, Amare, Richardson, and other average to good players. If Nash can't make it to the NBA Finals once in his NBA career, it will be very frustrating for him and all his fans. Still, I can't say Stockton knows how to win better than Steve Nash.
Conclusion: Stockton is a better scorer, passer, defender, iron horse, clutch player, and a more diverse player. A lot people will argue that Steve Nash is better because of the 2 MVP Awards he won. First off, I give him credits and he did play great in 2005 and 2006. However, if Nash played with Malone and against Jordan, Barkley, and Hakeem, he would never have won one MVP. Second, Stockton could have won the MVP in 2005 and 2006. Stockton's best two years were 17 PPG, 14 APG, 3 SPG, and an NBA All-Defensive Team honor. Nash, in 2005 and 2006, averaged 17 PPG, 11 APG, 0.9 SPG, and no NBA Defensive Team honor. Saying that Stockton could have played just as well as Nash during the 2000's, most of the same goes for Nash. Nash would have fit perfectly with Malone, but would have struggled with the more defensive orientated style of play in the 1990's. In the end, I would take Stockton over Nash any day of the week.