Friday, February 23, 2007

Goodbye D.J.: Former Celtics Guard Dead at 52

I heard the news last night, one of those moments that bring instant nostalgia mixed with sadness.

Dennis “D.J.”, Johnson, dead at the so very young age of 52.

Now, many are more qualified to write about his stats as player and coach, but I know as a Boston Celtics fan from the ruling days of the mid 1980s, I am just as qualified to write about what #3 meant to me and the rest of the NBA. You see there was this extraordinary group of players, way back then, who worked parquet chemistry that has rarely been replicated since.

I never followed professional sports much before or after those glory days, but to me the band of brothers known as Ainge, D.J., The Chief, McHale, Bird; these men absolutely defined ‘Dream Team’, even before the ’92 Olympics. And now the dream has been diminished as if there was a funky rift in a sports version of the space-time continuum.

Of course, Dennis Johnson was not a cancer researcher or on his way to be canonized for selfless work in the name of humanity, he was just an average guy from Compton, but he developed into an outstanding ball player, an outstanding team player. One of the best moments of Celtics lore (and memorably called by the iconic Johnny Most) was during game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals. Larry Bird stole a pass from the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas and whipped it to DJ, who laid the ball in the net for a one point lead in the final seconds of the game.

“…Oh MY, this place is going crazy…”

I remember that moment so vividly – but now the overall image of those days has just had a significant piece ripped away.

Dennis Johnson leaves his wife Donna; and three children Dwayne, Daniel and Denise.

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