#11, #7 Kevin Johnson
Position: Guard ▪ Height: 6-1 ▪ Weight: 180 lbs.
Born: March 4, 1966 (Age 46) in Sacramento, California
High School: Sacramento in Sacramento, California
College: University of California
Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers, 1st round (7th pick, 7th overall), 1987 NBA Draft
NBA Debut: November 6, 1987
Blindingly quick and possessing the ability to shoot or dish off his drives, Kevin Johnson can be as difficult to defend one-on-one as any point guard in basketball. A three-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection, Johnson has provided the spark that has ignited the Phoenix Suns' high-powered attack since 1988-89.
With the acquisition of Jason Kidd in 1996-97, Johnson showed he could play effectively at off guard as well.
A collegiate star at the University of California, Johnson left as the school's all-time leader in scoring (since surpassed by Lamond Murray), assists and steals. The first player in the Pac-10 Conference to post a triple-double, he was a first team all-conference selection in his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he averaged 17.2 points and 5.0 assists.
The seventh overall pick of the 1987 NBA Draft, Johnson began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers but was traded to the Phoenix Suns midway through his first year as part of a deal that sent Larry Nance to the Cavaliers. Johnson has been a key figure in Phoenix ever since.
He made the All-NBA Second Team in 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1994 and the All-NBA Third Team in 1992. He was an All-Star in 1990, 1991 and 1994 and a member of the Dream Team that won the World Championship of Basketball in 1994. In 1988-89, his first full season with Phoenix, Johnson averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 assists to win the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. That season was the first of three during which he averaged better than 20 points and 10 assists.
Johnson's arrival marked the beginning of a string of seasons in which the Suns won more than 50 games. Phoenix, however, was unable to reach the NBA Finals until 1992-93, when the franchise obtained forward Charles Barkley. Johnson played only 49 regular season games that year but averaged 17.8 points and 7.9 assists in the playoffs and set an NBA record by logging 62 minutes in a single NBA Finals game.
The following year Johnson averaged 20.0 points in the regular season and 26.6 points in the playoffs. The next year, 1994-95, he was slowed by injuries but had a great postseason, averaging 24.8 points in 10 games and pouring in 46 points in a losing effort in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Johnson played well in 1995-96, although injuries limited him to 56 games. He ranked sixth in the NBA in assists at 9.2 apg, was second on the Suns in scoring at 18.7 ppg and was 11th in the NBA in free throw percentage at .859.
Just when it appeared his career might be winding down following four seasons marred by injuries, Johnson bounced back in 1996-97 to play in 70 games, his most since 1991-92. He averaged a team-high 20.1 points and 9.3 assists, ranking third in the NBA in assists and 20th in scoring, and following the season he decided to postpone his announced retirement and signed a new contract with the Suns. With Kidd installed as the Suns' point guard of the future, Johnson worked effectively at the off guard spot and also spelling Kidd at the point in 1997-98. He averaged 9.5 points, 4.9 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game, ranking second on the team in assists and fifth in the NBA in free throw percentage (.871).
Johnson retired after the 1997–98 season, but returned briefly during the 1999–2000 campaign to replace the injured Jason Kidd during the playoff run. Johnson helped the Suns win their first playoff series in five years. After Phoenix lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Lakers, he retired for the second and final time.