Dennis Johnson dead at age 52
Austin, TX (Sports Network) - Former NBA player Dennis Johnson has passed away following an apparent heart attack. He was 52 years old.
Johnson was the head coach for the Austin Toros of the NBA's Development League. He died after collapsing at the end of practice.
A native of San Pedro, California, Johnson played collegiately for Pepperdine, and was the 12th pick of Seattle in the 1976 NBA Draft.
A five-time All-Star, Johnson spent 14 years in the NBA with the SuperSonics (1976-80), Phoenix Suns (1980-83), and Boston Celtics (1983-90), winning championships with Seattle in 1979 and Boston in 1984 and 1986. The speedy guard also participated in three other NBA Finals, falling short with Seattle in 1978, and Boston in both 1985 and 1987.
The man known as "D.J." took home MVP honors in the 1979 Finals, as the SuperSonics avenged the previous year's seven-game loss to the Washington Bullets, by beating them in five games.
"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," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "Dennis was a man of extraordinary character with a tremendous passion for the game and his loss will be felt throughout the basketball community. On behalf of the entire NBA family, I extend my deepest sympathy to his wife Donna, his children Dwayne, Denise and Daniel, and their entire family."
Johnson, perhaps, is best-known as the player on the receiving end of a Larry Bird pass in the final seconds of Game 5 in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals at the Boston Garden between the Celtics and the Detroit Pistons. After Bird made a leaping steal of Isiah Thomas' inbound pass, his off-balance outlet found Johnson, whose layup proved to be the game-winning basket.
"I'm shocked and saddened after hearing the news about DJ," former Celtics teammate Kevin McHale said. "He was truly one of the good guys to play in the NBA, and he was a great teammate who was fun to be around."
Johnson also spent 24 games on the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2002-2003 season, compiling an 8-16 record. He averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 assists for his career.
"I was deeply saddened to learn about the sudden passing of Dennis Johnson," former Celtics teammate Danny Ainge said. "I had the great privilege of playing alongside DJ in the backcourt for six seasons and two championships. He was one of the most underrated players in the history of the game, in my opinion, and one of the greatest Celtic acquisitions of all time. DJ was a free spirit and a fun personality who loved to laugh and play the game. He was a good teammate and a good friend."BOS