Posted: Friday November 10, 2006 2:25PM; Updated: Friday November 10, 2006 2:25PM
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Last week SI writer Richard Deitsch interviewed TNT's Ernie Johnson for the magazine's Q&A. The 50-year-old announcer returned to work last week after taking four months off for treatment of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Here are additional excerpts from their conversation:
SI: You have had six rounds of chemotherapy. What's next?
Johnson: The short story is I am remission and chemo is over.
SI: What was it like to go through something private in a very public way?
Johnson: It's kind of weird having somebody ask you what Charles Barkley is really like as they are getting chemo across from you and you are getting a drip. You can't get away from it. I've gone up to people at restaurants that I recognize and I'll say "What's up?" But a lot of times people didn't make the connection. I'm just another one of those bald guys walking around. I had a guy who saw me at church ask me, "What happened? Did you lose a bet to Charles." I said "I wish."
SI: It must have felt great to be back on the air?
Johnson: It felt great to be back on. The day was loaded with encouragement from so many people.
SI: Were you worried Charles and Kenny Smith would treat you with kid gloves after your diagnosis?
Johnson: When I told them in November I said, "Look, here's what I am dealing with and I'll probably start treatment soon. But what you can't do this year is let this change any of the dynamic on the show. I don't want you saying, 'You can't pick on Ernie because he has cancer.'" We couldn't do that and to their credit they did not treat me any differently which was important to me.
SI: Which people in the basketball community called you to offer support?
Johnson: David Stern called me at my house the first day I released a statement. Mark Jackson wrote me the greatest e-mail in the first couple of days. Bill Walton was one of the first guys to call. One day he even called me with John Wooden.