Remembering Dennis Johnson

Lakers' Magic Johnson defends Celtics guard, Dennis Johnson
On this day 6 years ago (February 22nd, 2007), the Celtics family lost a champion, teammate, and brother. Dennis "DJ" Johnson died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52. Although Johnson's death was a dreadful tragedy, here I will talk about the celebration of his life and success in the NBA.

Dennis Johnson, drafted 29th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1976 NBA Draft, had an extremely successful NBA career. DJ played his first four seasons in the NBA with the SuperSonics and won his first NBA Championship in 1979 with the team. Johnson won the NBA Finals MVP award that year as the Sonics defeated the Washington Bullets 4-1 in the series. 1979 was one of his most decorated seasons as he was selected to his first NBA All Star game, won the NBA Championship & Finals MVP, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Johnson was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1980 after constant friction with the Sonics coaching staff, particularly Lenny Wilkens. In Phoenix, DJ continued to play exceptionally well and was an All Star selection in two of his three seasons with the Suns. Also as a Phoenix Sun, Johnson was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first, and only time in his career. His ability to play excellent perimeter defense was probably his strongest attribute throughout his career, being selected to the All-Defensive First Team in each of his three seasons with Phoenix. The personal accolades clearly piled up on Johnson's resume. His team - not so great though. Not once did the Suns didn't make it past the second round of the playoffs in these seasons and as he did in Seattle, he butted heads with the Suns coaching staff as well. In 1983, DJ was traded to the Boston Celtics for Rick Robey and draft picks.

In '83, Johnson joined Larry Bird and the Celtics in what was going to become a dynasty in Boston. Johnson helped the Boston Celtics restore their fierce rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the teams met in the Finals year after year. The 1984 NBA Finals (featuring the Celtics and Lakers, gasp) became an instant classic. The Celtics and Lakers battled through a seven game series in which Boston held home court advantage. In Game 4 of this series, the Celtics showed their old school grit-and-balls and beat the Lakers in overtime behind Bird's 29 points and DJ's 14 dimes. The Celtics would end up winning the series, giving Johson his second championship and first in Boston.

In 1985, the final All Star season for DJ, the C's and Lakers met again the the Finals to no surprise. The series tipped off to what is known today as the "Memorial Day Massacre" - the C's demolished the Lakers 114-148 thanks to a near double double by Kevin McHale, 26 points & 9 boards. In Game 5, Johnson dished a ridiculous 17 assists in loss which put the Lakers on top of the series 3-2, on route to a 4-2 championship series win.

Johnson and the Celtics would go on to win the NBA Championship once again, this time against Hakeem (Akeem, at the time) Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in '86. From 1984-1986 Johnson was an All-Defensive Second Team selection, and again an All-Defensive First Team selection in 1987. DJ would retire as a Celtic three years later, and the Celtics retired his No. 3 jersey (currently hanging in the rafter at TD Garden). Johnson has career totals of 15,535 points, 5,499 assists, and 1,477 rebounds - clearly not mind blowing numbers but DJ worked his ass of. Three time champion, Finals MVP, 5 time All Star, and 2010 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.

Dennis Johnson.