Former players, coaches remember Johnson at service

2/25/2007 - NBA

AUSTIN, Texas -- Former NBA players remembered Dennis
Johnson for his athletic ability and his infectious smile Sunday
during a memorial service where there was far more laughter than

"In my lifetime I have never met such a dynamic person,"
former Boston Celtics teammate Cedric Maxwell told the crowd of
nearly 200 people gathered in the David Chapel Baptist Church. "He
was one of the greatest players of all time."

Johnson, who was part of three NBA championship teams with
Boston and Seattle, died Thursday after collapsing following
practice with the Austin Toros, the NBA Development League team he
coached. He was 52.

"I am going to say a few things about Dennis Johnson, like how
nosy he was," Maxwell said. "We would go to each NBA city and
call a Realtor up and go see the most expensive homes, knowing we
weren't buying anything.

"He's looking at me right now saying, 'I am so glad that you
went up to speak Max, instead of Bill Walton, because we would have
been here all day long."'

Walton and Robert Reed were among those in the crowd along with
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Texas Longhorns coach Rick Barnes.

A framed No. 3 Toros jersey and an enlarged picture of Johnson
displaying his well-known smile were surrounded by flowers near the
altar. His wife of 31 years, Donna, and his three children, Dwayne,
Denise and Daniel, sat on one of the front rows with Toros players
and assistant coach Dale Osbourne nearby.

A five-time All-Star and one of the most feared defensive guards
in NBA history, Johnson was part of the last Boston dynasty. He
spent 14 seasons in the league and retired after the 1989-90 season
at the age of 35. He played on title teams with the Celtics in 1984
and 1986 and with the SuperSonics in 1979, when he was the finals

"If DJ was around the 50 greatest NBA players, you could put
him right in the middle and say, 'There he is,"' Reed said.
"Those 50 players knew they wouldn't get it done if it weren't for

Johnson averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 assists for his career.
When he retired, he was the 11th player in NBA history to total
15,000 points and 5,000 assists.

Johnson made one all-NBA first team and one second team. Six
times he made the all-defensive first team, including five
consecutive seasons (1979-83).

Osbourne recalled a story when he blew out his back three weeks
after he moved to Austin to become Johnson's assistant coach.

"I didn't like to tell this story because it was
embarrassing," Osbourne said, "until I found out DJ told

Osbourne said he was yelling in pain a few feet from the door,
but couldn't reach it because of the pain.

He called Johnson, who coached him to the door.

Johnson said he wouldn't tell anyone.

"A few days later when I was able to go to practice, I heard a
scream as I entered the gym. Coach was lying on the floor, telling
it to all the guys," Osbourne said.

Johnson was born Sept. 18, 1954, in Compton, Calif. He played at
Pepperdine and was drafted by Seattle in 1976. Johnson was traded
to Phoenix in 1980 and Boston in 1983.

Toros president Mike Berry ended his speech with a personal
message to DJ:

"I have a little guy and he is three years old. There is a
special place that I want to take him one day, that's in
Springfield, Mass., where you belong coach.

"Make no mistake, we will not make that trip without your
arrival there first."

Springfield is home of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Johnson will be buried Friday in Gardenia, Calif.