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Dramatic Radio: For Dennis Johnson – “Underneath to D.J. who lays it in” February 24, 2007

Posted by William Spear in >> Dramatic Radio.

Dennis Johnson – the star NBA guard known as D.J., three time National Basketball Association champion, and current coach of the Austin Toros – collapsed and died on Thursday February 22 after his team’s practice. He was 52.

Johnson’s accomplishments are impressive: NBA champion in 1979, 1984, and 1986); NBA Finals MVP in 1979; All-NBA First Team in 1981; All-NBA Second Team in 1980; All-Defensive First Team from 1979-1983 and 1987); All-Defensive Second Team from 1984-1986; and Five-time NBA All-Star from 1979-1982 and 1985. 

The NBA Encyclopedia adds this to his accolades:

“During his 13-year playing career with the Seattle SuperSonics, the Phoenix Suns, and the Boston Celtics, Johnson established himself as one of the best defensive guards in the league. “D.J.” combined his bulk with rocket-launcher legs to frequently win battles against players nearly a foot taller.

His quick hands and feet made him a constant threat to strip the ball from opponents. He always seemed to be in the middle of the action. He could post up, crash the boards for rebounds and tip-ins, hit from the outside and lead the fast break. And he could pass with the best of the league’s playmakers.”

And this from NBA commissioner, David Stern: “Whether he was leading his teams to NBA championships or teaching young men the meaning of professionalism, Dennis Johnson’s contributions to the game went far beyond the basketball court. Dennis was a man of extraordinary character with a tremendous passion for the game.”

But basketball fans everywhere remember Dennis Johnson in the fifth game of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals between D.J.’s Boston Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. With less than 10 seconds to play, Boston was behind and trying for the go-ahead basket when the ball was knocked out off bounds and awarded to Detroit. Hopeless? Don’t say that to D.J. The announcers excitedly called the final moments as follows:

. . .

Detroit ball with five seconds to go … (Detroit guard, Isiah) Thomas wants to get it in quickly. And … Now there’s a steal by Bird. Underneath to D.J. who lays it in. What a play by Bird … Bird stole the inbounding pass  and laid it off to D. J. and D. J. laid it up and in. Boston has a one point lead with one second left. Oh my, the place is going crazy.”

. . .

That moment, and so many others authored by Johnson, still thrill and send the pulse racing. Thanks, D.J.


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