DerMarr Johnson's life changed on Sept. 13, 2002, the evening that the car he was driving slammed into a tree. The 6-foot-9, 201-pound forward had spent a night out on the town...
DerMarr Johnson’s life changed on Sept. 13, 2002, the evening that the car he was driving slammed into a tree. The 6-foot-9, 201-pound forward had spent a night out on the town with a friend and was driving from an Atlanta nightclub to his house in the suburbs.
At around 5 a.m., the accident occurred and Johnson, the No. 6 pick in the 2000 draft, suffered four fractured vertebrae in his neck.
Atlanta released him after his injury and he had a brief stint with New York last season. He signed a non-guaranteed contract with Denver before the season, but has played himself into the rotation.
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Johnson has started the past three games in place of the injured Carmelo Anthony.
I’ve heard you downplay your comeback, but you must admit it’s pretty amazing.
It’s really no big thing. I don’t think about it. The only time I do is when people ask me about it.
Can you take me back to that night? What happened?
Really I wouldn’t do much different, except the last part. It was a good night. I got tired and fell asleep. That’s really it.
Then tell me about how you came back?
It was long. At first, I had doctors telling me that I wouldn’t play again or I wouldn’t do this or do that. But I didn’t believe them. I wasn’t buying into any of that. I knew I’d play and get back to where I was.
What made you believe that?
I just did.
Are you the same player that you were before the injury?
No. In some ways, I’m better. But no. I guess not. I’m getting there. It’s not like I can’t do anything that I couldn’t do before. But inside, I feel it. It’s not like I think I’m not as good, but when you take that much time off you have to get used to playing again.
Do you feel like a rookie all over again?
Nah, not like a rookie, but I feel like I got a second chance. Like I said, I’m just playing again and that’s really it.
You really think this is no big deal, don’t you?
People come back from injuries all of the time. I’m no different.