Dennis Johnson just recently went through his usual Austin Toro’s basketball practice and was all smiles as he was greeted by Perri Travillion on the sidewalk at the Austin Convention center. He was all smiles as he jokes around about getting a parking ticket when Dennis collapses and never regained consciousness. It was the last time people saw Dennis and it was his last conversation as he gave a hearty laugh before his untimely death.
DJ loves to talk about basketball. It was basically everything to him after a series of setbacks and frustrations throughout his career. He feels he has achieved enough to be part of being one of the best point guards in NBA history. Underrated is an understatement for him. Ever since he played the game he was always greeted with discouragements he was undersized and he doesn’t have much talent to compete with his peers at 5’9” but it was a constant change for DJ. He worked on his game and developed his defense that after growing 6 inches taller he was averaging 16 points and 3.3 assists per game in college. He went into the NBA draft in 1976 but no team wanted his services it took him deep into the second round as pick 29 as the Seattle Supersonics drafted him. He won an NBA championship 3 years after and was named finals MVP as he scored 32 points in a game 4 overtime victory.
But in spite of it all DJ got traded to the Phoenix Suns the year after and after DJ’s deteriorating skills and continues clash with his coach he was again traded 3 years after to Boston.
“I hate to lose,” DJ said. “I accept it when it comes, but I still hate it. That’s the way I am.”
Nobody ever paid any attention to him while he was still learning the art of basketball. It took him to the second round before he got drafted and even winning championships and all the accolades he was still an underrated player and that what makes him successful.
“My reputation is as a defender, … But I tell people there were times that I averaged 19 points, 18.5 points. If you watched me play, or watched the guys I played with, nobody ever did one thing. That’s what made us successful.”
When Larry Bird made that famous steal with 6 seconds left against the Detroit Pistons it was DJ that cut to the basket and converted the layup. It was always his cerebral plays and defensive prowess that gave Boston two NBA championships.
It was always his all time favorite play and each time DJ thinks of it he will always end up smiling…
“I’ve said this many, many times: I don’t need to be validated, not in basketball, … I’ve won three championships. I was on the all-defensive team (nine times).”
But DJ finally gets his validation his long overdue award as he was inducted last August 13 to the basketball hall of fame… 3 years after his death the most underrated player of all time finally got his due recognition. Heaven must be like this…