He'll be best remembered as a Celtic, the team he played for for the final
seven years of his 14-season NBA career. In Boston, Dennis Johnson—who died
last week of an apparent heart attack at age 52—depended mainly on his moxie,
his mental toughness, his court awareness. He was, in a word, cagey.
But there was a
time when the 6'4", freckle-faced guard relied on his athleticism. At
Pepperdine, Johnson was so explosive that he—not the Waves' 6'10"
center—jumped the opening tip. After one season of harassing guards (and
forwards and centers) in the West Coast Conference, he applied for the 1976 NBA
draft as a hardship candidate. (In Johnson's case, the hardship was legit. The
ninth of 16 kids growing up in Compton, he worked for a year and a half as a
forklift operator after high school before he enrolled in Harbor Junior College
in Los Angeles.) The Sonics took him in the second round, and within three
years he had led Seattle to its only NBA title and begun a run of nine straight
appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Team.
acquired him in 1983, largely because they needed someone who could stop
Philadelphia's Andrew Toney from lighting them up. In the two seasons before
Boston got Johnson, the Celtics yielded 23.6 points per game to Toney. For the
next five years, until Toney retired, it was 15.1. DJ also memorably checked
Magic Johnson during the last four games of the 1984 NBA Finals; Boston took
three of the four to win the series in seven games.
But Johnson was
more than a defender. The owner of an erratic and not-at-all pretty jumper (his
dad, who taught him to shoot, was a bricklayer, both by trade and on the
court), Johnson was nevertheless a decent scorer—until the stakes were raised.
Then he became lethal. He averaged 14.1 points in the regular season, 17.3 in
the postseason. And he hit countless clutch shots, none bigger than his
twisting layup in traffic with one second left to beat the Pistons in Game 5 of
the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. That shot came off a feed from Larry Bird,
who stole the inbounds pass and then found Johnson cutting to the hole—a
reversal of their normal roles, as it was usually Johnson who whipped a pass to
Bird for an easy bucket. In 1986, Bird—who played alongside Hall of Famers and
Dream Teamers—called Johnson "the best I've ever played with."
When he died,
Johnson was the head coach of the Austin Toros of the NBDL. Said Toros owner
David Khan, "He was a delight to be around, with a one-of-a-kind laugh
that, like him, deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame."
To the field for its first game in 11 months, the Duke lacrosse team. The Blue
Devils—whose 2006 season was cut short after three players were accused of
raping an exotic dancer (the rape charges were dropped)—beat Dartmouth 17--11
last Saturday in front of 6,485.
Last Saturday following a charity basketball game in his hometown of St. Louis,
Broncos running back Damien Nash, 24. The cause of death has yet to be
determined. Drafted in the fifth round out of Missouri in 2005, Nash (above)
ran 18 times for 66 yards in three games last year. He helped organize the
charity game, which benefited a heart-transplant organization named after his
older brother, Darris Nash, who had a transplant last year. "He looked in
great shape [at the game]," said Lee Baker, a teammate of Nash's at
Coffeyville ( Kan.) Community College. "He had a big smile on his face. I
want to think I'm dreaming."
At the age of 71, in a car accident outside of Waco, Texas, Oliver Tomlinson,
the father of NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Oliver Tomlinson was a passenger in
a pickup truck driven by LaDainian's half-brother Ronald McClain, who was also
killed. "My father and I had a great relationship," LaDainian Tomlinson
said. "I am devastated by his passing."
At 71 after a long illness, Lamar Lundy, who was part of the Los Angeles Rams'
Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the 1960s. The original line included (from
left) Lundy, Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Roosevelt Grier and Hall of Famer
Deacon Jones. Roger Brown replaced Grier in 1967, and the following season the
Rams held opponents to 3,118 yards in 1968, the fewest yards ever allowed in a
14-game NFL season. Lundy, who retired in 1969, played his entire 13-year
career with the Rams. "He really was the stabilizing force," said
Olsen. "Mr. Consistency."
The hotel room and private jet of Sylvester Stallone, after a member of his
entourage was found carrying a substance believed to be human growth hormone.
Stallone, 60, arrived in Australia to promote Rocky Balboa and was detained by
officials at Sydney Airport after the substance was found in the luggage of a
man in his party. Authorities have not determined if charges will be filed.
Stallone, who has since returned to the United States, told reporters,
"This was just a misunderstanding."