Philly Front Office

Amir Johnson: NBA O.G.

On Saturday night, Johnson was caught with a cellphone on the sidelines late in a disappointing Game 1 loss to Brooklyn. For virtually any other player this would be, rightly so, lambasted as unprofessional and immature behavior. But for someone as dedicated, gentle and professional as Johnson there seemed to be more to the story than immaturity or lack of focus. 

Turns out, according to Joel Embiid, who is on camera looking at what seemed to be a text on Johnsons phone, the text was related to Johnson’s daughter who is “very sick” according to Embiid. 

Late Saturday night the Sixers released the following statement. 

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF AMIR JOHNSON
 
I apologize for having my phone on the bench in today’s game. I take full responsibility and will accept the consequences of my actions. I also apologize to my teammates, the 76ers organization and the fans for the distraction this has caused. 
 
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF ELTON BRAND
 
The 76ers organization has fined Amir Johnson for conduct detrimental to the team. I have addressed the matter with Amir directly and he understands why his actions were unacceptable. We are moving forward together with our full focus now on Game 2.

” I have a tremendous amount of respect for his humility, and his pride, and his professionalism.”

Brett Brown on Amir Johnson

On Sunday after Practice, Amir addressed the media.

A Dream Come True

It’s a dream come true for me actually, just the teamwork, the work, camaraderie and brotherhood. 

Amir Johnson is the last player to jump directly from High School to NBA. Selected in the second round in 2005, Johnson has defied the odds at nearly every stage of life and career to become a valued veteran and source of wisdom for his teammates. Johnson’s demeanor is no small part of why he remains a source of comfort and trust for Brett Brown in his 14th year as a professional. 

“It changed my life, I’be been doing it for 14yrs and i still feel the same way about it.” Johnson said after the regular season finale when asked about his love of the game of basketball. 

The camaraderie that Amir cites is part of what lead him to request to go down to Delaware in February and March for games to keep his legs in game shape and to pass on some of the lessons he has learned to a younger generation of players still chasing the dream of an NBA career. 

“Me starting at a young age, you learn different stuff by experience. when young guys tell me what they are going through I can tell them my story. Just appreciate it.”

Amir Johnson Takes the Blue Route Again

But as Amir continued to discuss the challenge of telling young players what being a pro requires, he said that there is no accelerating the process of living and experiencing things. 

“It’s like your parent telling you, don’t touch the fire. You don’t really know it until you get burnt. You kind of have to learn for yourself.” 

We talked a bit about what it took for him to sort of adjust to professional life, what challenges he faced and his answers were more about typical life of a young person transitioning into adulthood than a pure athlete. 

“I’ve always worked hard, I’ve always had to work hard to get results. For me the hardest part was learning the off the court stuff, learning how to pay bills, how to take care of my household.”

This latest saga related to the cellphone notwithstanding, Amir has approached this season with a level of humility and preparedness that is simply rare among all people but especially elite athletes. Perhaps it is the fact that he has never been a star on his team or a go to first, second or third option offensively. Johnson has played 870 games in his NBA career but started just over half of them. He has averaged just 21.1 minutes played per game over that span. 

And by all accounts he relishes the position of role player. That kind of workmanlike mentality has served him and his family well and also quite likely prolonged his stay in the NBA. 

Impact On Shake

“Amir is O.G. He’s a real O.G. when it comes to the NBA. He shows up everyday and works hard. He keeps the locker room mood light.” Said Shake Milton about the example and tone that Johnson sets for the team. 

“I know I can go to him and ask him anything. I’ve talked to him many times about things he went through as a young player” Continued Milton. 

The stuff we talk about is more on the court and off the court, transitioning to being a player of status in the league” 

Haywood Highsmith on Amir

Similarly, Haywood Highsmith the other Sixers rookie on a 2 way contract talked about how Amir Johnson came to Delaware to play with the Blue Coats and is consistently a model of hard work and good spirit. 

“He is always positive and keeps things light in the locker room” Said Highsmith. “He came down to Delaware a couple of times and talked to all of us about his story and it has been great to watch him work and learn.”

And in the end these comments from the younger players define Amir Johnsons growing legacy within the league. His positivity, hard work, humility and unselfishness are what have made his success possible and continue to make him a valuable teammate. 

When asked about how long he would like to continue playing Amir responded. “Until they kick me out, I’m gonna be out there in a wheelchair, subbing in”. 

 

Jason Blevins