All about D.J.
Name: Dennis Wayne Johnson.
Position: Point guard.
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Height: 6 feet 4.
Nickname: They called him “Airplane” as a Sonics rookie, but Johnson soon became known simply as “D.J.”
Born: Sept. 18, 1954, San Pedro, Calif.
High school: Dominguez (Compton, Calif.). Johnson was a 5-foot-9 guard who didn’t play much.
Junior college: Johnson wasn’t recruited, but the coach at Los Angeles Harbor College spotted him in a playground game and asked him to enroll. As a sophomore, he averaged 18.3 points and 12 rebounds, and led Harbor College to the state JC title.
College: Johnson was offered scholarships by Pepperdine and Azusa Pacific, and chose Pepperdine. He played just one season, averaging 15.7 points and helping the Waves make the NCAA tournament. He declared for the NBA draft after his junior season.
2005-07: Johnson was head coach of the Austin (Texas) Toros of the NBA Developmental League.
2004-05: Head coach, Florida Flame, D-League.
2003: Advance scout, Portland Trail Blazers.
2003: Interim head coach, Los Angeles Clippers, 8-16 to finish season.
2000-03: Assistant coach, Clippers.
1999-2000: Head coach, La Crosse Bobcats, CBA.
1993-97: Assistant coach, Boston Celtics.
Sonics, year by year
1976-77: Backing up Fred Brown and Slick Watts, Johnson played 20 minutes a game, shooting 50 percent and scoring 9.2 points per game.
1977-78: Coach Bob Hopkins was fired after a 5-17 start. He was replaced by Lenny Wilkens, who traded Watts and moved Johnson into the starting lineup. The Sonics finished 47-35 and advanced to the NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets.
1978-79: Johnson made his first All-Star game, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive team for the first of nine straight seasons. He averaged 15.9 points during the regular season, but saved his best for the NBA Finals. He averaged 22.6 points and was named MVP of the Finals after the Sonics beat the Bullets in five games.
1979-80: Johnson averaged 19 points, and was again an All-Star and All-Defensive team player. But the Sonics lost to the Lakers in the playoffs, and Johnson was traded to Phoenix, for high-scoring All-Star guard Paul Westphal.
NBA championships: 3, with Seattle (1979) and Boston (1984, ’86).
NBA Finals MVP: 1979.
All-NBA, first team: 1981.
All-NBA, second team: 1980.
All-Defensive, first team: 6, 1979-83, 1987.
All-Defensive, second team: 3, 1984-86.
All-Star Games: 5, 1979-82, 1985.
Johnson isn’t in the basketball Hall of Fame, but there are those who believe he should be.
Jerry Colangelo, CEO of the Phoenix Suns, puts former Sonics Johnson, Spencer Haywood and Paul Westphal, plus Adrian Dantley, at the top of the list of deserving players.
Johnson almost made it two years ago, two votes shy of induction, and remains on the list of nominees.
Let’s make a deal
Johnson was traded twice during his career:
June 3, 1980: Johnson had worn out his welcome in Seattle, and he was traded to Phoenix for another All-Star guard, Paul Westphal. Fans were upset, but Westphal had scored at least 20 points a game each of the previous five seasons, and Johnson didn’t always see eye to eye with coach Lenny Wilkens. Westphal tore up his knee and played only 36 games in his only season with the Sonics.
June 27, 1983: Boston’s Red Auerbach pulled a steal, sending often-injured center Rick Robey to Phoenix for Johnson, who helped the Celtics win titles in 1984 and ’86.