He continued to be involved in basketball well after he retired. When he passed away in 2017, it was a shocking blow to the NBA community and the Celtics organization.
Looking back at Dennis Johnson’s career
Before Johnson became one of the all-time greats to put on a Celtics jersey, he played for two teams. Johnson was a second-round draft pick by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1976 NBA draft. He spent his first four years in Seattle, and he improved each season. During his third season, he was a part of the SuperSonics team that won the 1979 NBA Finals. That season he averaged 15.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Johnson could play the point or shooting guard position, and he was very versatile on the court. The 1978-79 season was a breakout year for Johnson as he was named to his first All-Star team and was named to the All-Defensive First Team. He was named the Finals MVP as he averaged 22.6 points, six rebounds and six assists in five games.
Johnson had a lot of success during his time in Seattle, and that continued when he joined the Phoenix Suns for the 1980-81 season. In his first season with the Suns, he was named to his third straight All-Star team and finished the season averaging 18.8 points. Johnson was becoming a top player in the league at the time.
The Suns were successful in Johnson’s first two seasons, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals. Johnson quickly became the main scoring option when he played in Phoenix. He earned a spot on the All-NBA First Team for the first and only time in his career as a member of the Suns.
Dennis Johnson joining the Boston Celtics
In 1983, Johnson joined a Celtics team that had Hall of Fame forwards Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and Hall of Fame center Robert Parish. Johnson was the right fit for the team, which was regarded as one of the best in the league for numerous seasons. When Johnson joined the Celtics, his role changed. Instead of a high-scoring shooting guard, he became a playmaking point guard. It was not hard for Johnson to accept that role, playing alongside some of the NBA greats.
In his first season in Boston, his average for points went down as he averaged 13.2 points per game. He played his role on the team as a true point guard and put his team in the best position to win games, and he did just that. The Celtics made it to the 1984 NBA Finals and took on the Los Angeles Lakers. The rivalry between the two teams is one of the greatest in sports history. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 4-3, and Johnson did a great job defending Magic Johnson.
Johnson would win his third overall title and second with the Celtics in 1986 as they defeated the Houston Rockets. He would finish his career in Boston and establish himself as one of the all-time greats. Johnson ended his career averaging 14.1 points, five assists, and 3.9 rebounds. The Celtics retired his No. 3 jersey, and he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
The tragic death of Dennis Johnson shocked the NBA world
After his playing career, Johnson remained with the Celtics organization working as a scout for the team. In 1993 he became the assistant head coach for the Celtics until 1997. He served as an assistant coach for the L.A. Clippers in 2000 and served as the interim head coach for 24 games toward the end of the 2002-03 season.
Johnson also coached in the CBA and had numerous head coaching positions in the NBA Development League. In 2007 while he was serving as the head coach of the Austin Toros, he had a heart attack and collapsed at the end of a practice. He was rushed to the hospital but could not be revived, and he was pronounced dead. One minute he was running a practice, and just like that he was gone. It was shocking news for everyone across the NBA as they couldn’t believe what happened. The legacy of Johnson will continue throughout the NBA, and he will always be considered one of the greats to play the game.