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RIP: Dennis Johnson

By Daniel Strickland on February 22, 2007.

I was shocked to learn that Dennis Johnson died today. Most fans will remember Johnson simply as a great player.

Johnson, a five-time All-Star and one of the great defensive guards, played 14 seasons and retired after the 1989-90 season. He played on title teams with the Boston Celtics in 1984 and 1986 and with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979 when he was the NBA finals MVP.

By 1979 I was already an avid Spurs fan. The Spurs made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals that season, losing 4-3 to the Washington Bullets, who then lost 4-1 to Johnson’s Sonics in the Finals. I remember cheering for Johnson and the Sonics in that series, partly out of a need to see the Bullets lose.

The Spurs downslide during the 1984 to 1989 seasons coincided with Johnson’s trade to Boston, and my brief fling as a Celtics fan. My poster of the Iceman was replaced by pictures of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson.

Johnson was head coach of the San Antonio Spurs D-league Austin Toros. He collapsed at the end of today’s practice in Austin. He was just 52 years old.

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