Celtics Title Town

Boston Celtics,and the NBA

Celtics Beat Post New Entry

Celtics Legends Series: Dennis Johnson

Posted by shawn cassidy on June 28, 2011 at 10:19 AM

If you ask Larry Bird he will tell you Dennis was a major factor in the two championships in the 80's that Dennis was apart of. Dennis was the steady hand that ran the offense. He wasn't a player who made a lot of mistakes. He hit a few clutch shots in the playoffs,and in the finals. This is one of those moments you love to hear every day if you could.

"Now there's a steal by Bird! Underneath to DJ who lays it in!!...Right at one second left! What a play by Bird!! Bird stole the inbounding pass, laid it up to DJ, and DJ laid it up and in, and Boston has a one-point lead with one second left! Oh, my, this place is going crazy!!!"

A prototypical late bloomer, Johnson overcame early struggles and had a successful NBA playing career. Drafted 29th overall in 1976 by the Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson began his professional career as a shooting guard. He eventually led the Sonics to their only NBA championship in 1979, winning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award . After a short stint with the Phoenix Suns, he became the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics.

The Seattle SuperSonics took Johnson in the second round of the 1976 draft with the 29th pick and gave him a four-year contract, with which he earned a salary of $45,000 in the first year and $90,000 in the last.

In the 1978 NBA Playoffs. After eliminating the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champion Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets, they almost defeated the Washington Bullets by taking a 3–2 lead in the 1978 NBA Finals. In a 93–92 Game 3 victory, Johnson blocked seven shots—the most blocks in NBA Finals history for a guard.However, the Sonics lost in seven games, partly because of Johnson's Game 7 scoring drought, in which the second-year guard missed all of his 14 field goal attempts.Johnson later acknowledged that he simply "choked"; he vowed never to repeat this again and credited this game as an important lesson to become a better player.Johnson and the Sonics got their revenge in the 1978–79 season. After clinching the Pacific Division with a 52–30 record,the team met the Bullets again in the 1979 NBA Finals. After losing Game 1, the Sonics won the next four games to take the finals series, helped by Johnson, who averaged almost 23 points along with six rebounds and assists per game. He scored 32 points in a Game 4 overtime victory, and was named NBA Finals MVP. It was during this season that Johnson established himself as one of the best guards in the league; he averaged 15.9 points and 3.5 assists per game, and made his first All-Defensive First Team and All-Star Game appearance.

During the following season, Johnson averaged 19.0 points and 4.1 assists, appeared in his second All-Star Game and was named to the All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Second Team. However, the Sonics lost in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, who had Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Because of the abundance of talent on the losing Sonics team, Johnson later called this loss one of the worst disappointments of his professional career. Coach Wilkens grew tired of Johnson, who often clashed with him and was perceived as a growing liability for the team. At the end of the season, Johnson was traded to the Phoenix Suns for Paul Westphal and draft picks. The Sonics finished 22 games worse in the next season despite the addition of Westphal.

In Phoenix, Johnson further established himself as a quality player. In his three years as a Sun, Johnson averaged 14–20 points a game and provided tough defense. He played in two All-Star Games, was voted into three consecutive All-Defensive First Teams and earned his only All-NBA First Team appearance. In this period, Johnson played shooting guard and became the main scorer on the team, as opposed to being the second or third option as a Sonic.

In the first two years of Johnson's stint, the Suns were fairly successful, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals both seasons. The Suns bowed out in the first round in Johnson's last year.Towards the end of his career at Phoenix, Johnson's deteriorating situation in Phoenix.

Before the 1983–84 season, the Celtics had repeatedly lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Playoffs, mainly because physical Sixers guard Andrew Toney routinely caused problems for their defensively fragile backcourt. Thus, Celtics general manager Red Auerbach added the perennial All-Defensive Team member Johnson to his squad.Johnson joined a squad led by Hall of Fame forward Larry Bird, who played in the frontcourt with two fellow Hall of Famers, center Robert Parish and forward Kevin McHale, a combination often called the best frontcourt of all time by the NBA.Johnson described joining the Celtics as a "dream come true" and enjoyed the tutelage of highly successful general manager Auerbach, who was "living history" according to Johnson.

With the Celtics, Johnson changed his playing style for the third time in his career: after being known as a slam dunking shooting guard with the Sonics, and an all-around scorer with the Suns, he now established himself as a point guard who was defined more by playmaking than scoring. In his first year as a Celtic, he averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists and was elected to the All-Defensive Second Team. The Celtics reached the 1984 NBA Finals, where they met the Los Angeles Lakers, their intense rivals since the 1960s. The Celtics won 4–3, and Johnson took credit for playing smothering defense on Hall of Fame Lakers playmaker Magic Johnson, limiting him to a sub-average 17 points in the last four games, and being at least partly responsible for several of the Laker point guard's game-deciding errors in Games 2, 4 and 7. As a result, Magic Johnson was taunted as "Tragic Johnson" whenever the Lakers and Celtics played against each other.

In the 1984–85 season, Johnson continued playing smothering defense, earning his next All-Defensive Second Team call-up while averaging 16.9 points and 7.3 assists per game. The Celtics met the Lakers in the 1985 NBA Finals again. Johnson's big moment came in Game 4: when the score was tied 105–105, teammate Larry Bird had the ball in the last seconds. Being double-teamed by Lakers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, Bird passed to the open Johnson, and the guard sank a 19-foot (5.8 m) buzzer beater to win the game.[8] However, the Lakers took their revenge this time, winning the series in six games, powered by venerable 38-year-old Finals MVP Abdul-Jabbar. Johnson described this loss as one of the toughest in his career, because the Celtics were "close [to winning the series]" but "could not get the job done".

In the following season, the Celtics made the playoffs, helped by the performance of Johnson, who made the All-Defensive Second Team again while scoring 17.8 points and 6.7 assists per game. After defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics reached the 1986 NBA Finals against the up-and-coming Houston Rockets, led by the "Twin Towers" of centers Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Led by Finals MVP Larry Bird, the Celtics beat the Rockets 4–2, and Johnson won his third title.

The Celtics were unable to repeat their title in 1987 despite several dramatic playoff victories. Johnson played strong defense again, earning yet another appearance on the All-Defensive First Team, and the Celtics embarked on a nail-biting playoff campaign. In the 1987 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics split the first six games against the Milwaukee Bucks 3–3. In the deciding Game 7, which the Celtics won, Johnson had a spectacular play with 1:30 left in the game: a Celtics ball threatened to fly out of bounds, but Johnson dived for it and whipped it backwards in mid-air against Bucks center Jack Sikma. The ball bounced off Sikma before going out of bounds, and the Celtics maintained possession.

In the next round, the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics faced the Detroit Pistons. The series was described as a grudge match between two intense rivals, featuring a great level of personal animosity, sharp rhetoric and several physical altercations. The center of this feud was Pistons pivot Bill Laimbeer, who brawled with Celtics players Bird and Parish.[19] In Game 5, Johnson was involved in a crucial play: down by one point, Larry Bird stole an inbound pass by Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas with six seconds left and passed it to a sprinting Johnson, who converted a difficult layup as time expired.

According to Johnson, this was his favorite play of all-time. Game 6 and Game 7 also featured a feud, this time between Pistons forward Dennis Rodman and Johnson. In Game 6, which the Pistons won, Rodman taunted Johnson in the closing seconds by waving his right hand over his head. When the Celtics took Game 7, Johnson went back at Rodman in the last moments of the game and mimicked his taunting gesture. In the 1987 NBA Finals, however, the Celtics succumbed to the Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 as Lakers playmaker and Finals MVP Magic Johnson put up a great performance, averaging 26 points and 13 assists throughout the series.

The next three seasons were disappointing for the aging Celtics. In the 1987–88 season, Johnson averaged 12.6 points and 7.8 assists, but in the 1988 Playoffs, the Celtics were unable to beat the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the next season, Johnson (who statistically declined to 10.0 points and 6.6 assists per game) and his team made the 1989 NBA Playoffs on a meager 42–40 record, but was immediately eliminated in the first round.The following 1989–90 NBA season was Johnson's last. The now 35-year-old playmaker relinquished his starting point guard role to younger John Bagley, but when Bagley dislocated his shoulder, Johnson returned with high level of performance and was lovingly called "our glue man" by coach Jimmy Rodgers. In that season, Johnson started in 65 of his 75 games, averaging 7.1 points and 6.5 assists, but the Celtics failed to survive the first round of the 1990 NBA Playoffs.

Johnson retired after the Celtics did not offer him a new contract at the beginning of the 1990–91 season.During his retirement ceremony, his perennial Los Angeles Lakers opponent Magic Johnson telegraphed him and lauded him as "the best backcourt defender of all time".In addition, Celtics colleague and triple NBA Most Valuable Player award winner Larry Bird called Johnson the best teammate he ever had.

When Dennis passed away it was unexpected. He was only 52 years old. His number is retired with the Celtics. Dennis was a good person,and a great teammate. From researching,and just being a fan. Their is nothing bad said about Johnson. He had a few issues with past coaches,but that didn't take away from who was as a person.


Categories: Celtics Legends Series

Post a Comment


  • Oops, you forgot something.
Already a member? Sign In

1 Comment

Reply paul
11:00 AM on June 28, 2011 
Dennis Johnson was one of those players who prove the point that a player cannot be defined by statistics. Unfortunately, it's a lesson that never seems to take hold amongst sports fans.

Members Area

Login with Facebook







Follow me on Twitter for breaking news

Celtics Chat box



Google Translator

Share on Facebook

Share on Facebook

Upcoming Events

Thursday, Jul 7 All Day
Thursday, Jul 7 All Day
Thursday, Jul 7 All Day
Friday, Jul 8 All Day





Become Friends with Celtics Title Town

Reach more customers with paid web directory  where you can find more resources about News and Media Directory

My Zimbio
Top Stories