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A look back at Kevin Johnson's contributions on and off the court
More Than a Player
By Jerry Colangelo, president and CEO

KEVIN JOHNSON IS ENJOYING ONE OF HIS FINEST SEASONS in a Suns uniform - and he's produced many fine efforts in the last 10 years. But the scope of our - the organization's and mine, personally - appreciation of KJ carries far outside the lines of the court at America West Arena.

The young man that is Kevin Johnson is far more impressive than KJ, the player, could ever be.

When looking back over the last 10 seasons, I'm struck by a few thoughts. Naturally, KJ's contributions on the court have been staggering. And his willingness to give back to his community, especially in Phoenix and his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., has been well documented. But what has impressed me most about this young man is what he stands for outside of the spotlight.

Many of you are aware of his St. Hope Academy program, which has for years now provided educational and moral support for disadvantaged youths in KJ's native Sacramento. Kevin earned the designation as a Point of Light by President George Bush some years back for these efforts. But KJ's smaller, day-to-day, contributions to mankind are those that may not go mentioned, but speak as loudly as his better-known philanthropic endeavors. By contributions to mankind, I'm talking about his honesty, genuine concern for others, personal convictions and high moral standards.

Too often in today's world of public relations "spin" and public vs. private persona, what you might see of a person on the surface does not hold up to closer scrutiny. With Kevin Johnson, what you see is what you get. There is no need to embellish KJ's accomplishments or his beliefs, to polish his reputation - what you see and hear of his public commitment to himself and others holds true no matter how close you look.

Three years ago, Kevin told me that this season - 1996-97 - would be his last. Many people since have asked me if I thought he was serious. I'll tell you now what I've said all along, when Kevin Johnson says something, he means it. I'm sure his intentions are to retire after this season, but that is not to say that he can't have a change of heart. Just know this, Kevin's talk of retirement is by no means a ploy for public sympathy or an attempt to gain undue attention, as we have seen from other sports figures in the past. Kevin's interests outside of the game of basketball are genuine and I'm sure that if he does decide to end his basketball career, he will have many more contributions to make outside of the sport.

The stance this organization has taken is that KJ is a person of strong beliefs and convictions and he, and only he, will decide when it is time to close the book on his marvelous career. Naturally, I hope Kevin does have a change of heart because this league needs more people like him, not to mention the contributions on the court that I know he can still provide.

But, for this remarkable young man who has always chosen the right path, whatever decision he makes will be the correct one. He will know it in his heart - a heart that is always in the right place.

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