The first time or two, I figured it was just good public relations. Now, I'm positive it's more than that.
When visiting draft prospects come to workout for the Jazz at the team's practice facility, it's only a matter of time before the names Stockton or Malone - or both - are evoked.
As sure as the bounce, bounce, bouncing of basketballs or the squeak, squeak, squeaking of sneakers, some young, wide-eyed, just-happy-to-be-here NBA hopeful will nod toward the retired jerseys on the wall and make some sort of a glowing comment about the Hall of Famers.
And, of course, young Mr. Prospect is correct. Those guys truly are legends whose shadows loom large across the franchise, leaving anyone hoping to follow in their footsteps both in awe and perhaps a bit intimidated.
Now looking ahead to my eighth season covering the Jazz for the Standard-Examiner, I can state definitely, this is more than just a passing thing. Predictably, it happened again last weekend when the Jazz held their first pre-draft workouts of the year.
Myck Kabongo is a 21-year-old point guard who grew up in Toronto cheering for Steve Nash.
However, during his time at Texas, Kabongo wore No. 12, just like Stockton.
If by chance the Jazz drafted him, he'd have to change his number, a fact that seemed absurdly obvious to him.
"You can't even make that comparison," Kabongo said. "What that guy's done ... I mean, you're talking about probably one of the best point guards to ever play the game."
To be fair, Kabongo's glaring understatement had more to do with his own nervousness than it did a desire to discount Stockton's greatness. After all, when these young ballplayers come to down, they're usually whisked in and out, just long enough for dinner, a strenuous workout in front of team personnel and a chat with the media.
Afterward, there's lunch and an extensive interview with the bosses.
There's little doubt many of these youngsters have been coached up by their agents, who wisely remind them to say all the right things. And that, of course, means mentioning the guys whose statues sit outside EnergySolutions Arena.
But something tells me the true hoop aficionados don't need to be coached about Stockton and Malone.
Kabongo wasn't putting on a show, nor was South Dakota State point guard Nate Wolters.
Wolters grew up in Minnesota, but 22-year-old couldn't complete his visit to Utah without a tip of the cap to the local legends.
As a kid his heart belonged to Kevin Garnett and the Timberwolves, but how could a gym rat like him not be aware of Stockton and Malone?
"I remember my dad was a huge Jazz fan," he said.
There's probably a better-than-average chance Nate's dad appreciated the Jazz's tough, physical, old school style of play when Stockton and Malone were running the floor.
In fact, young Nate specifically mentioned his dad's affection for the 1997 and 1998 NBA finals, featuring the Jazz and Chicago Bulls.
"They were fun teams to watch," he said.
And at that someone from the pack of reporters asked Wolters the penultimate question about the Jazz-Bulls rivalry.
(Look away, Jazz fans, if you don't want to be reminded of Michael Jordan's series-winning shot in Game 6 of the '98 Finals.)
Question: Did Jordan push off on Bryon Russell?
"Yeah, I think he did," said Wolters, who, for the record, was a 7-year-old back in the summer of '98.