Friday, February 23, 2007

Saying goodbye to a childhood hero

NBA great Dennis Johnson died yesterday.

In 6th grade, while most my fellow chums were writing KISS and AC/DC on their Pee-Chees, I had filled mine with an homage to my hero, DJ... Dennis Johnson. I had gotten down the afro, the toothy grin, those marks under his eyes that made him look like a football player, and nearly every freckle (there were a lot,) as well as a 10-year old could capture it anyway. He wasn't the prettiest NBA player, that's for sure, but he was my hero nonetheless.

Playlist: Homage to Dennis "DJ" Johnson

Now... everyone is going to recall his days as a Celtic, passing the ball to Larry Bird, but he'll always be a Sonic first and foremost for this NBA fan... those were the days when he wasn't a role player - he was the man. He led the Sonics to two NBA Finals runs, winning it in 1979 and capturing the MVP. He did it all back then... he scored, passed, rebounded and really played defense at the 2-guard position like nobody in the game.

When they traded him a year later to Phoenix for Paul Westphal, I remember shedding a few tears. How could they trade the soul of the team for this feathered-haired jumpshooter? The Sonics, while still winning more then losing, didn't seem like the team it was with Johnson. Meanwhile, Phoenix flourished, winning the Pacific crown, with Johnson concentrating more on defense. Then Boston came calling, trading for him ultimately to stop 76er Andrew Toney (he only slowed him down, though... it was Toney's own feet that was finally the best defense.)

In Boston he was part of some great teams that led to a couple more rings for DJ, and he received some more acclaim that he truly deserved, but when asked recently where Seattle fits in his amazing career, DJ didn't hesitate. "Absolutely the number one," he said in 2003. "It's where I won the first championship, it's where I was first drafted, everything first happened to me here. It's where I first got married, everything."

Likewise, DJ... likewise.

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drake leLane said...

Homage to Dennis "DJ" Johnson

1. "Supersonic Man" - Lee "Scratch" Perry
2. "Play Some D" - Brassy
3. "DJ Saved My Life" - Richard "Humpty" Vission

J Shifty said...

Ain't it strange the things that bring us together? I mixed in more NFL helmets with my Van Halen symbols in elementary school, but 3,000 miles away the mighty visage of Dennis Johnson is engraved in my memory just as you describe it (right next to the undead pallor of Kevin McHale and the shadows cast by the towering tower that was Robert Parish). Thank you, Drake sir.

(In other news, this whole Comments zone has been critically wanged for me since the Gogger/Bloogle melding. Quite frustrating...)