Since his NBA career ended 15 years ago, Kevin Johnson has done OK for himself: He launched a successful career in politics and has been the mayor of his hometown of Sacramento, California, since 2008.
But to Valley sports fans, the No. 7 overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft will always simply be known as KJ — the point guard who guided a struggling Phoenix Suns franchise into a new era of greatness.
In his 12 seasons in Phoenix, Johnson was a three-time All-Star selection and a four-time All-NBA Second Team pick. He led the Suns to a playoff berth in every full season he played with the team.
On Saturday, Johnson was named one of 12 finalists for the 2015 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class.
Many of KJ’s NBA numbers certainly lend themselves to a Hall of Fame nod. Here’s a look at some of those numbers he put up during his tenure in the Valley.
At just 6-foot-1, Johnson didn’t throw down many dunks in his day — but the one jam he’s remembered for, in the 1994 Western Conference Semifinals, is possibly the franchise’s most iconic.
KJ’s dunk over 7-foot center and eventual Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon in Game 4 of that series against the Houston Rockets was most of the most improbable you’ll ever see.
Johnson is just one of just three men in NBA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in three consecutive seasons. The other two are a pair of Hall of Famers: Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas.
Johnson was injury-prone during much of his NBA career, but you wouldn’t know it by the 62 minutes he played in the Suns’ 129-121 triple-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of the 1993 NBA Finals.
KJ had 25 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and a pair of steals during those minutes, which remain the most played in a single NBA Finals game.
KJ played 683 games in a Suns uniform. Only four men have played more: Alvan Adams (988), Walter Davis (766), Steve Nash (744) and Dick van Arsdale (685).
The course of Suns franchise history was forever changed on Feb. 25, 1988 when the team traded Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kevin Johnson, Mark West, Tyrone Corbin and three draft picks, including a 1988 first-round pick (Dan Majerle).
The Suns, who had four consecutive losing seasons from 1985-88, went on to win at least 53 games every year from 1988-89 to 1994-95 under KJ’s leadership.
Johnson earned one of the NBA’s top awards in his first full season as a Sun. KJ was named the league’s Most Improved Player for the 1988-89 season in which he averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 assists per game (up from his 1987-88 totals of 12.6 and 8.7) and led the Suns to their first Western Conference Finals appearance since 1983-84.
Thomas and Magic Johnson are the only two other men to average at least 20 points and 12 assists per game in a season.
Johnson remains the Suns’ all-time leader in free throws made and attempted. He connected on 3,851 of his 4,579 attempts from the line in his 12 seasons in Phoenix.
KJ is also the third-most accurate free-throw shooter in franchise history among those who played at least 150 games for the team. Only Steve Nash (90.4 percent) and Kyle Macy (88.4 percent) were better.
KJ dished out 6,518 assists during his time in Phoenix. Only Nash (6,997) had more in a Suns uniform.
Only Adams (13,907) and Walter Davis (15,666) scored more points in Phoenix than Johnson, who tallied 12,747 with the Suns.