Friday, February 23, 2007

RIP Dennis Johnson

Any Detroit sports fan over 30, one that is truly worth their salt, will admit that they despised the Boston Celtics of the 80's. I'm not talking about a mere dislike, or finding them annoying, you out and out HATED the Celtics. Passionately. I'm sure if you ask any Celtics fan, and they would say the same about the Isiah Thomas led Pistons. (Just read any Bill Simmons column...)

I can still tell you the starting lineup. Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, and Dennis Johnson. I doubt there was a team I hated with such fury as that group of players.

The Celtics didn't merely play games against the bad Boy Pistons, they were outright battles filled with hand to hand combat.

Life's funny though. As you mature, you begin to appreciate what once was, and will never be again. Which is why it really saddened me to hear of the passing Thursday of Dennis Johnson, at a much too young 52.

Everyone remembers Bird stealing Thomas' inbounds pass against the Pistons at the end of game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. But no one would remember Bird's steal if Johnson hadn't had the foresight to cut towards the basket, allowing Bird to make the pass for DJ's game winning lay up. It's a play only a heady ballplayer makes. Otherwise it's Bird heaving up a desperation shot, and odds are the Pistons make the finals. Thanks to Johnson, that didn't happen. It's one of the few plays that I still can't bear to watch again, even to this day.

DJ was a vastly underrated player, one you could argue was hall of fame worthy, and should be considered the glue to those great title winning Celtics teams. I'm just glad I was able to watch Johnson, and the rest of the Celtics of the 80's, at the peak of their considerable skills.

RIP Dennis Johnson, and thanks for the (Painful) memories.

Postscript: (The Worldwide Leader dot com's Simmons has a nice take on DJ from the perspective of a Celtics fan)

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