NBA D-LEAGUE FOES JOIN FORCES
TO ELECT DENNIS JOHNSON TO HALL

Red Claws, Toros Lead Petition Drive to Enshrine Celtics Legend

PORTLAND, ME – NBA D-League foes on the court, the Maine Red Claws and Austin Toros today announced that they have joined forces to establish a petition drive to encourage the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to enshrine Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson. The Red Claws, presented by Quirk Chevrolet, are the minor league affiliate of the Boston Celtics. At the time of his death in 2007, Johnson was the Toros’ head coach.

The Red Claws and Toros will face off tonight at 7:30 PM and again on February 10, both at the Portland Exposition Building. Both teams will circulate petitions at all home games between those dates. Signatures will also be collected online at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/DennisJohnson.

The teams will forward the signatures to the Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA before the finalists for the Class of 2010 are announced on Friday, February 12. The Enshrinement Ceremony is scheduled for August 13.

“There are few players who deserve to be a member of the 2010 Class of Basketball Hall of Fame more than Dennis Johnson,” said Red Claws President and General Manager Jon Jennings, who coached and worked with Johnson for several years with the Celtics. “We are proud to join with the Austin Toros in this effort and hope teams and basketball fans around the country will join us in encouraging the Hall of Fame to finally bestow a much-deserved honor.”

The petition drive has the blessing of the Johnson family. Johnson left behind his wife Donna and three children, daughter Denise and sons Daniel and Dwayne.

“Dennis gave his life to two things, family and basketball, and even though he isn't here today, I believe he would be touched and grateful to everyone who still want his memory and legacy remembered,” Donna Johnson said. “Thank you everyone for the love and support.”

Dennis Johnson was an all-around performer who played in six NBA Finals and was on the winning side in three. A five-time All-Star, he was named to the All-Defensive team nine straight years (1979-87), six on the first team and three on the second team. Known for his tenacious defense and clutch shooting, Johnson amassed impressive stats in a 14-year career with Seattle, Phoenix and the famed Celtics: 15,535 points; 5,499 assists; 4,249 rebounds; 1,477 steals; 675 blocks. The 1979 Finals MVP with Seattle, Johnson was often overshadowed by the Celtics legendary Big Three of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, all of whom have been inducted into the Hall. Bird, never one to toss compliments around lightly, told Sports Illustrated that Johnson “the best I've ever played with” while former Celtics teammate, and current Celtics GM, Danny Ainge told a reporter “He was one of the most underrated players in the history of the game, in my opinion, and one of the greatest Celtic acquisitions of all time.”

As he was by his teammates, as a coach, Johnson was revered by his players. Derrick Zimmerman, who played for Johnson in Austin, said of his late coach, “Not only was D.J. a great player and coach, he was also a great humanitarian. I think it’s time for the NBA to finally recognize a man who scored over 15,000 points and 5,000 assists and welcome him into the Hall of Fame.”

Dennis Johnson’s reputation as a player was as a winner who hated to lose. “I put my heart into the game. I hate to lose. I accept it when it comes, but I still hate it. That's the way I am,” he was quoted as saying said. Following his retirement, Johnson turned his passion towards coaching, and at the time of his death on February 22, 2007 was the head coach of the Austin Toros. The NBA D-League’s coaching award, which was won by the Toros’ Quin Snyder last season, was renamed for Johnson in 2008.

TOROS AND RED CLAWS TO HONOR #3: To mark the final day of the petition drive, the Red Claws will offer a special ticket price for the February 10 game vs. the Toros. In honor of the Celtics’ great #3, the Red Claws will offer a limited number of tickets for $3. A signed Dennis Johnson Celtics game jersey will also be on display at all Red Claws home games during the campaign. The Toros will also hold a similar event on Thursday, January 28 when they host the Los Angeles D-Fenders.