Kevin Johnson has the bug.

Following his original retirement after the 1997-98 NBA season, Kevin Johnson avoided the game of basketball. He attended very few games at America West Arena, despite continuing to reside in Phoenix. He didn't watch games on TV all that often, either. And he definitely didn't play basketball. Or even pick one up for that matter.



Kevin Johnson Johnson
"A clean break," he explained during a press conference on March 23 to announce that he was coming out of retirement. In the week before, Tom Gugliotta had suffered a torn ACL, Rex Chapman had undergone an emergency appendectomy and Jason Kidd had fractured his ankle. Pulling on his familiar No. 7 jersey and lacing up his Converse once again was his duty. He compared it to answering the call of his country. The Phoenix Suns needed one more big assist from Kevin Johnson and he was going to be there to dish it.

What KJ didn't expect was that he would catch that fever once again. The competitive fire that he'd attempted to extinguish, or at least contain, roared out of control. The sounds of the Spalding hitting the wood, the snap of the net, the cheers of the crowd were never heard as sweet. The love of the game was back. Is back.

Although he officially re-retired on August 8, Johnson won't be ignoring his first true love any longer. The three-time All-Star, who averaged 18 points and nine assists over his 12-year career, will be joining the NBC crew this coming season as an analyst for NBA Showtime. He will be enjoying his sport in a whole new way and helping to spread that bug to a national television audience.

Johnson participated in a live chat with fans on August 11.


Jenz at 5:47pm ET
Hey Kevin, is it possible to explain the loyalty that players for the Suns have? The similarity between bleeding Dodger Blue and the loyalty in Phoenix is impressive. Is it the players, owners, or the combination of both? Oh yeah, you're great on NBC.

Kevin Johnson at 5:48pm ET
It's unfortunate that you don't see the loyalty from management to players and players to management like we used to see in the old days. That's not even the case with the Dodgers now. You don't see it much in modern sports. When you do see it now, it is special. I was fortunate to spend most of my career with the Suns. A lot of things have to be in line for that to happen.
Scott at 5:48pm ET
Is there anyone in the NBA today who reminds you of the way you played in your heyday?

Kevin Johnson at 5:49pm ET
All these guys are a little bit better than me. Stephon Marbury is the one that is most similar to my game when I played. He is a point guard that can also score.
LeNard Higgins at 5:49pm ET
Who was your toughest match-up? I say Stockton, because you guys went hard in your early years.

Kevin Johnson at 5:50pm ET
Yeah, I think that John was a very difficult matchup for me. Not only was he a great individual player but his team played very well together.
Air Cardinal at 5:50pm ET
Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Kevin Johnson at 5:51pm ET
I would like to be married and have a family. I would like to somehow make the community I live in a better place to live.
Craig Dobson at 5:51pm ET
How do you rate the current guards at the Suns: Hardaway and Kidd?

Kevin Johnson at 5:52pm ET
I think they are the most electrifying backcourt in the NBA today. Very exciting. Jason is a very talented point guard and his best days are ahead of him. Penny has a second life here and I think he will take full advantage of that. Hopefully their skills will complement each other.
Jesse at 5:54pm ET
If a similar situation occurred like the one which
brought you out of retirement last season would
you come out of retirement again?

Kevin Johnson at 5:55pm ET
You can never say never but it is very unlikely. There were a lot of circumstances that came about that allowed me to step in. But as far as I'm concerned I think my playing days are really, really over this time.
Ron at 5:55pm ET
Would you ever consider coaching basketball?

Kevin Johnson at 5:55pm ET
No. I have no desire to coach basketball.
David L at 5:56pm ET
What do you think the suns need to do in order to get over the hump and win that all-elusive title?

Kevin Johnson at 5:57pm ET
Well, the one thing I would like to see is them get a core group of players that can play together for 3-4 years and surround those players with other good players. Then after that, they have to figure out a way to stop Shaq and Kobe.
Kimberly at 5:57pm ET
Kevin,
I read today that you had a one-on-one with President Clinton yesterdays. That must have been a blast! How does that rate on your all-time experience list?


Kevin Johnson at 5:58pm ET
It was at the top of the list. There are not too many times when you can say that you have a meeting with the President. In the interest of national security I can't talk about what we talked about but we did meet in the Oval Office.
andy at 5:58pm ET
If you could play one-on-one with any other basketball star who would you play with?

Kevin Johnson at 5:59pm ET
I really wouldn't want to play anyone today but I do have a suggestion for who Andy can play and that would be Kobe Bryant.
kellen moore at 5:59pm ET
How do you think the Suns will be able to stop Shaq and Kobe?


Kevin Johnson at 6:00pm ET
We will need all summer and all the regular season to figure out a way. Nobody has an answer to that. We have to look at the acquisitions in the offseason and see if we can counter them.
Kyle, a Suns Fan in Los Angeles at 6:00pm ET
While you were playing at the latter part of last season, how long did it take for you to work out the so-called "rust" athletes have when they've been away from their sport for a extended amount of time, in your case a couple years?

Kevin Johnson at 6:01pm ET
I think I was fortunate in one regard because I was in good shape. It took me about a week to build a conditioning base and another week to get in basketball shape. Then it was another two weeks to work out the rust. So it was about 4-6 weeks.
Ron at 6:01pm ET
Kevin, Who was your role model growing up as a kid?

Kevin Johnson at 6:02pm ET
My role model was my grandfather. He instilled in me the feeling that no matter how successful you are you have a responsibility to help others.

I also looked up to Dr. J for how he acted on and off the court.
Kimberly at 6:02pm ET
Kevin,
Congratulations on becoming a part of the NBC team! I think you're a great fit to work with Hannah and Peter. I've heard you mention that you like New York more than a few times now. What do you like about the Big Apple?


Kevin Johnson at 6:04pm ET
I'm looking forward to working with Peter and Hannah. I think that New York is the city of all cities. There is so much diversity there. I also like that when I go there, I can catch a play or musical and see some of the most talented people practicing their craft.
Keith at 6:04pm ET
Did you think you could fill Jason's shoes when he was hurt or just to be a "coach" or leader to bide time for Jason to heal?

Kevin Johnson at 6:05pm ET
When I came back we talked about what the goals were. There were three. The first was we wanted to maintain our playoff position, which we did. The second goal was to get out of the first round of the playoffs. And the third goal was to keep us alive long enough to get Jason back and we did that. We were successful with all three goals.
Sean at 6:06pm ET
Whats better about the NBA now, and whats worse?

Kevin Johnson at 6:07pm ET
The thing that is worse is that it is so commercialized and there is so much emphasis on selling product as opposed as building skills. You don't see as many well rounded players in basketball as you did back in the day. Guys like Kobe and Kevin Garnett are working hard to change that. They work hard to keep improving.
liltuna at 6:07pm ET
What was your greatest accomplishment in the NBA?

Kevin Johnson at 6:09pm ET
I have a couple. One was getting drafted in June of 1987. The second one was that I was able to play 12 years in the league. Also, during my third or fourth year, I received the Kennedy award for citizenship. Another one was that we made it to the Finals. And finally, I am proud that for the most part, I spent my entire career with one team.
Denise from Wisconsin at 6:09pm ET
Do you remember dunking overtop of Hakeem Olajuwon in a playoff game? That was amazing given your size and his and you also won that game. You have always been my favorite player and good luck at NBC. Will look forward to seeing you.

Kevin Johnson at 6:09pm ET
Thank you very much. That was a great moment in my career. Sometimes, even now, it keeps me up at night because it was so great. But we did not win that game or that series.

Kevin Johnson at 6:11pm ET
I want to thank all the fans for logging on to NBA.com. Thanks for the support over the years and thanks for making the last 12 years some of the greatest of my life. God bless.