Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lights out, DJ

I was both surprised and saddened to learn this afternoon about the sudden death earlier today of former NBA star Dennis Johnson, at the age of 52.

Apparently, DJ had just concluded a practice with the Austin Toros, the team he coached in the NBA's D-League, when he collapsed. Paramedics worked for 23 minutes to revive him, but were unsuccessful.

I never met Dennis Johnson, but we attended the same university three years apart. I certainly heard a great deal about DJ during my years at Pepperdine. When I arrived in Malibu in the fall of 1979, Johnson had already been a star with the Seattle SuperSonics for three seasons, having just led the Sonics to the NBA Championship against the Washington Bullets in the spring of that year. But at Pepperdine, he was still "our guy."

As the biggest major-sports athlete Pep had produced to that point, DJ's name was still whispered in reverent tones around campus whenever Pepperdine basketball came up for discussion. After only one season at the 'Bu, he'd left an impression as one heck of a hoopster, taking Pep two rounds deep into March Madness in '76. When the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame was unveiled at Firestone Fieldhouse in the early '80s, DJ was in its sophomore group of inductees. Not a bad feat for a guy who opted for the pro draft after only one year.

When I think about DJ as a player, I think of him primarily for his tenacious defense. Many were the guards who credited Dennis as the toughest guy they had to face off against. But he could also put the ball up when he needed to, and he dished the rock with the best of them. He was only the 11th player in NBA history to score 15,000 points and tally 5,000 assists in a career. Larry Bird considered DJ the best guard he ever played with, which is saying something.

My condolences to DJ's family and numerous friends.

Labels: , , ,

0 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Post a Comment

<< Home