This was as bad as a mistaken identity could get. Two guys with the name of Eddie Johnson played in the NBA at the same time and one was a good guy while the other wasn’t. While one got arrested for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl, the other one took the heat. For the good Eddie Johnson, the case of mistaken identity became his biggest nightmare.
Eddie Johnson vs. Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson, known as ‘Fast Eddie’, played his college basketball at Auburn University. He was a third-round pick of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1977 NBA draft. He played his first nine seasons in the NBA with the Hawks and was an NBA All-Star in both the 1979-80 and 1980-81 seasons. Fast Eddie averaged 15.1 points per game in his 11-year career.
In the 1981 NBA draft, another player named Eddie Johnson was selected in the second round by the Kansas City Kings. This Johnson, too, was a longtime player in the league as he went on to have a 17-year professional career. Johnson, out of the University of Illinois, played for six different NBA teams and spent the first six seasons of his career in the Kings organization. He won the NBA Sixth Man Award during the 1988-89 season.
When they were both done playing in the NBA, they experienced extremely different lifestyles. Fast Eddie went on to live a life of drugs and sexual misconduct, which resulted in him serving life in prison. He was found guilty in 2008 of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl and is serving a life sentence in prison. Eddie Johnson, from the University of Illinois, became a broadcaster and a motivational speaker.
Fast Eddie’s legal troubles
Fast Eddie Johnson battled substance abuse while in the NBA. He also battled injuries. The combination seemed to take over after the 1985-86 season when he never played any more than 39 games in a season. Johnson was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers midway through the 1985-86 season.
In 1986, Fast Eddie checked into rehab after a cocaine problem resulted in multiple suspensions from the league. He refused to cooperate with his mandatory counseling and was subsequently banned from the NBA in 1987. When his NBA life was over, his real problems began.
Fast Eddie was arrested on numerous charges, including burglary, shoplifting, and assault on a police officer. In 2006, he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl while he was awaiting trial for another rape charge. He was found guilty in 2008 and is serving a mandatory life sentence without parole.
The horrible case of mistaken identity
Eddie Johnson had never been in trouble. Maybe he had a couple of traffic violations, but nothing more than that. When Fast Eddie was arrested for molesting an 8-year-old girl, some media outlets posted a photo and the bio of the wrong Eddie Johnson, creating a nightmare for the innocent Johnson.
“Devastating. Hard to explain,” Johnson said right after Fast Eddie’s arrest and mistaken identity. “The thing that disappointed me the most is some people were overzealous enough to think it was me and attack me with a ferocity I can’t comprehend. That’s the part that didn’t allow me to sleep last night. That’s the part that forced me to reach out to as many people as I could and say ‘Shame on you, that’s not me.'”
Johnson had to go alert family, friends, former teammates, including Charles Barkley, and let them know he wasn’t the criminal. “He called me really upset about it,” said Charles Barkley back then. “It’s a tough situation. He was on vacation in Hawaii. He gets back and the first thing he knows, he’s dealing with this. And he’s such a good dude. It’s an unfortunate situation.”
Eddie Johnson said he’s worked at building his reputation and didn’t want it to crumble because of mistaken identity. “My name is everything,” he said. “I don’t fault the other Eddie Johnson for having that name. I think it’s a great name. He just doesn’t happen to be a great guy.”