Suns News

Kevin Johnson Retires from Basketball

THE PHOENIX SUNS and Kevin Johnson jointly announced the retirement of the four-time All-NBA selection from the game of basketball today.

Johnson enjoyed a standout 11-year NBA career in which he was dually honored for his play on the court and his actions in the community.

Kevin Johnson finished his career ranked third on the Suns' all-time scoring list.

Originally drafted by Cleveland, KJ joined the Suns on Feb. 25, 1988 following a trade with the Cavaliers that also brought Mark West, Tyrone Corbin and three draft picks to Phoenix in exchange for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a first-round pick.

"When I think of Kevin Johnson, I think of a young man who represented this franchise as well as anyone who has worn the Suns uniform. He made a tremendous contribution to this franchise," Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo said. "He is one of the most outstanding point guards to play this game. Kevin will go down as one of the most popular players to play for the Suns, but also one who had as big an impact as anyone who has ever played for us.

"We had some wonderful years, a terrific run while Kevin was here, and I'll always remember his enthusiasm as a young player when he came to Phoenix and how he helped us turn around a franchise that was in some disarray. So I thank him for a terrific job and congratulate him on a fabulous career in the NBA and I wish him nothing but the best as he goes forward."

The acquisition of Johnson paid immediate dividends, as the Suns posted a 55-27 record in 1988-89, Johnson's first full season with the Suns, a 27-win improvement over the previous season - the third biggest turnaround in NBA history.

"I've always felt that timing is everything, and certainly Kevin Johnson came to the Phoenix Suns at the proper time. The team was in need of new leadership and he gave us outstanding leadership for a decade," Cotton Fitzsimmons, Suns head coach from 1988-92 and 1995-96, said. "I remember Kevin asking, 'What do you want me to do, coach?' I walked to the basketball rack and handed him a ball and told him, 'You go do what you do best.' The rest is history because he'll always be remembered as one of the all-time greats to play for the Phoenix Suns."

"I thank the Phoenix Suns for making my playing experience memorable and for helping me accomplish everything I ever could have dreamed of, with the exception of a NBA Championship," Johnson said. "There is no better first-class organization to play for, from top to bottom, than the Phoenix Suns and I am extremely proud to have worn their uniform. I am most proud of playing virtually my entire career with one franchise, which in the modern era of sports is a rarity.

"I would also like to thank the fans in Phoenix and throughout the NBA, which are not surpassed in loyalty, for their constant support, as well as thank my teammates, family and friends for their unwavering encouragement."

Winner of a gold medal for Team USA at the 1994 World Championships in Toronto, Johnson finished his career ranked third on the Suns' all-time scoring chart with 12,707 points and first in franchise history with 6,494 assists. In addition, he tops the Suns record book in career free throws made (3,844) and attempts (4,572), and holds team marks with 25 assists in a game, Apr. 6, 1994 against San Antonio and 10 steals against Washington on Dec. 9, 1993.

The 1989 NBA Most Improved Player in his first full season with the Suns, Johnson finished his career fifth in NBA history with 9.2 assists per game, trailing only John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas. His career total of 6,687 assists ranks 10th on the NBA career assists list.

A three-time All-Star, KJ became just the sixth player in league history to record 11,500 points, 6,000 assists, 2,000 rebounds and 1,000 steals on Feb. 11, 1997 at Portland, joining Magic Johnson, Thomas, Stockton, Maurice Cheeks and Reggie Theus. He averaged 20-plus points and 10-plus assists in three-straight seasons from 1988-91, becoming one of only five NBA players to accomplish the feat, along with Nate Archibald, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Isiah Thomas.

Johnson was remembered just as well for what he accomplished off the court. In July 1989, he founded the St. Hope Academy (Help Our People Excel) in Sacramento to benefit youth by providing educational, cultural and spiritual opportunities. As a result of his work, KJ was recognized by then-President George Bush in 1992 as one of the "1,000 Points of Light." In addition, he won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the NBA and the Sports Illustrated for Kids' Good Sport Award in 1990-91, and was named USA Today's "Most Caring Athlete" in 1995 due to his humanitarian efforts and contributions to the community. In 1997, Johnson was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

Although no timetable has been set, Johnson is expected to be honored by the Suns organization in the near future.

Return to top of page