Kevin Johnson

Kevin Maurice Johnson (born March 4, 1966) is a retired American basketball point guard who played for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns. He is currently running for mayor in his hometown of Sacramento, California. If elected he will be Sacramento's first African-American mayor.

Early life

Johnson was born and raised in Sacramento, the son of Georgia West, an African-American, and Lawrence "Frog" Johnson, a Caucasian. West was only 16 when she gave birth, and after young Kevin's father drowned in a freak accident in the Sacramento River three years later, both Georgia and Kevin were raised by the Peats, Kevin's grandparents. Kevin would go on to become a local standout at Sacramento High School, where he starred in both baseball and basketball, leading the state of California in scoring as a senior (32.5 ppg).

University of California

Despite excelling at two sports in high school, Johnson decided to play basketball exclusively at the collegiate level, and accepted a scholarship to play basketball for the University of California, Berkeley. Playing all four seasons, Johnson ended his career in 1987 as the school's all-time leader in assists, steals, and scoring (since eclipsed by Lamond Murray). He was also the first player in the Pac-10 Conference to post a triple-double and was named to the Pac-10's all-conference First Team in both his junior and senior seasons, averaging 17.2 points and 5.0 assists in his final campaign. His number 11 is retired. Originally drafted in 1986 to play professional baseball with the Oakland Athletics as a shortstop, Johnson spent his collegiate summers with the A's' minor-league team in Modesto, but after being advised by a scout that his future was in basketball, Johnson never looked back, and was the seventh selection overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1987 NBA Draft.

Phoenix Suns

Originally drafted to challenge incumbent point guard Mark Price for the starting spot, Johnson found himself on the bench as Price's backup during the 1987-88 NBA season, as Price stepped up his game significantly in training camp and convincingly won the starting job. On February 28, 1988, Johnson (along with teammates Mark West and Tyrone Corbin) was traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Larry Nance, Mike Sanders and a future draft pick. Phoenix also received a draft pick in the trade that was used the next season to select Suns' stalwart Dan Majerle. Adjusting rapidly to the change of scenery and much-increased playing time, Johnson excelled, and was named NBA Rookie of the Month in April 1988, averaging 15.1 points, 10.6 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and an .864 free throw percentage for the month.

That next year in his first full season with Phoenix, Johnson emerged, averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 assists to win the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. It was also the first of three straight seasons in which he averaged at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists, joining Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players in league history to accomplish that feat for three consecutive seasons. From 1989 to 1991 he was selected to the All-NBA Second Team, earning Third Team honors in 1992 and Second Team honors again in 1994. KJ also was selected to the NBA All-Star Team in 1990, 1991, and 1994 and made the playoffs every year of his career after his rookie season. In the 1991 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, K.J. wore #41 instead of his familiar #7. Announcers Bob Costas and Mike Fratello speculated it was to honor teammate Mark West who was not picked to participate in the 40th All-Star Game, despite his valuable contributions on the boards and in the trenches for the Suns on a nightly basis.

The 1992-93 Suns, led by Johnson (despite having missed 31 regular season games due to injury and two after being suspended because of a brawl in a game vs. the New York Knicks) and Charles Barkley, posted an NBA-best 62-20 record. Narrowly escaping first round elimination versus the Los Angeles Lakers, the Barkley-led Suns managed to make it to the NBA Finals, where they eventually fell to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games en route to the Bulls' third consecutive title. KJ, having only played in 49 regular season games that year, still averaged 17.8 points and 7.9 assists in the playoffs and established an NBA record for Finals minutes played by logging 62 minutes in Game 3 (a 129-121 triple OT victory) vs. the Bulls. In 1995, the injury-prone KJ was again slowed by injuries but returned to form for the post-season, averaging 24.8 points, 9.3 assists, and a .573 field goal percentage in 10 games, including a 46-point, 10-assist effort in a 115-114 Game Seven loss of the Western Conference Semifinals to the eventual champion Houston Rockets. In Game Four of the previous year's series with eventual champion Houston, in front of a capacity crowd in Phoenix, Johnson completed a spectacular dunk over Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon driving the baseline and rising above the 7'0" center to throw it down with authority. The shot became an oft-played highlight for that playoff series and for the ages and was part of a second consecutive 38-point, 12-assist effort by the point guard.

International competition

In addition to his NBA efforts with the Suns, Johnson also lent his talents to the US national team in the 1994 FIBA World Championship, reuniting with old teammate and rival Mark Price to win the gold medal. Indeed, K.J. led Dream Team II in both total assists and assists average (3.9) while shooting .500 on two-point field goal attempts (16-32).

Retirement and comeback

Johnson retired after the 1997-98 season, but returned briefly during the 1999-2000 campaign to replace the injured Jason Kidd during the playoff run. Johnson helped the Suns win their first playoff series in five years (and their only series victory between 1995 and 2005). But after Phoenix fell in the second round to Los Angeles, he retired for the second and final time. After his second retirement, Johnson spent one season (2000-01) as a studio commentator for The NBA on NBC.

Accomplishments and legacy

  • Johnson is one of only three players in NBA history (Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson are the others) to average at least 20.0 points and 12.0 assists in a season.
  • Johnson is one of only three players in NBA history (Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas are the others) to have averaged at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists in three consecutive seasons.
  • Johnson is one of only four players in NBA history to have averaged at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists per game in three different seasons.
  • Johnson is one of five players to have averaged at least 15.0 points and 10.0 assists per game over the course of a season while shooting at least .500 from the field.
  • Johnson is one of only two players (the other is Magic Johnson) to have averaged at least 20.0 points and 10.0 assists per game over the course of a season while shooting at least .500 from the field.
  • Johnson is the only player in NBA history to have averaged at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, a .500 field goal percentage, and 2.0 steals in a season (in '90-'91).
  • On March 7, 2001, the Suns inducted Johnson into their Ring of Honor and retired his uniform number seven during halftime of a game Phoenix played against the Sacramento Kings, Johnson's hometown team.
  • NBA record holder for minutes in a finals game, playing 62 minutes in 1993 vs. the Chicago Bulls.
  • Three time NBA All-Star.
  • Phoenix Suns all time leader in free throws made, free throws attempted, and in assists.


In Phoenix, as president and CEO of The Kevin Johnson Corporation, Johnson oversees the operations of several subsidiary organizations specializing in real estate development and management, sports management, and business acquisition. A key component of The Kevin Johnson Corporation includes appearances and public speaking engagements for corporations, academic institutions, and community organizations. Johnson founded the St. Hope Academy in 1989 and served as its CEO until January 2008. St. HOPE is a nonprofit community development corporation whose mission is to revitalize communities through public education, civic leadership, economic development and the arts.

Johnson is a 2000 graduate of the Harvard Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute, a program that prepares students for work in faith-based urban economic revitalization. He also has a B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley that he completed after his initial retirement from the NBA.

In 2003, St. HOPE formed St. HOPE Public Schools, a pre-K-12 independent charter school system that provides education to nearly 2,000 students in seven small schools.

Sexual assault allegations

Phoenix investigation

During the summer of 1995, a 16 year old girl alleged that Johnson had fondled her. Johnson does not strongly deny the accusation that he took a shower with the girl when confronted by her with that accusation during a phone conversation recorded by Phoenix police. The Sacramento Bee stated that they had received a copy of a proposed settlement agreement, under which Johnson would have paid the girl's family $230,000. After conducting an investigation, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office declined to prosecute, on the grounds that there was not a reasonable likelihood of conviction.

Sacramento High School investigation

On April 16, 2008, rival mayoral candidate Leonard Padilla distributed a 2007 report of similar allegations made against Johnson at St. HOPE Sacramento High School. The allegations were investigated by local police, but no charges were filed, and the alleged victim recanted her story. On April 29, 2008, a group of female civic leaders including former Sacramento Mayor Ann Rudin, Sacramento Municipal Utility District board member Genevieve Shiroma, and former State Senator Deborah Ortiz demanded the release of the police report on the matter. The teacher to whom the student initially brought the complaint subsequently resigned over the incident, claiming, "St. HOPE sought to intimidate the student through an illegal interrogation and even had the audacity to ask me to change my story. Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel responded, saying ""I think the allegations at the school were handled in the way that you would want them handled. Immediately they followed all the normal protocols that they were supposed to follow. I think it was pretty clear there was nothing there... We did ask the young lady whether anyone had influenced her – her answer was no." The Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said on May 30, 2008, that Johnson’s actions, though ill-advised, were not illegal.

Federal investigation

An investigation by AmeriCorps, a federal agency which has funded St. HOPE projects, is underway. Investigators are looking into accusations that Johnson made sexual advances toward two Hood Corps volunteers (one of whom was a minor at the time), that he violated program guidelines by requiring employees to participate in religious services and mandatory "Boot Camp" style fitness training, and that he required employees to campaign for Sacramento City School Board candidates.

Political career

On March 5, 2008, Johnson announced he would run for mayor of Sacramento, his hometown, challenging incumbent Heather Fargo. Election day is June 3, 2008. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the nonpartisan election, there will be a runoff.

Kevin has garnered the endorsement of the Sacramento Police Officers Association (SPOA) the Sacramento Builders' Exchange, the Chamber of Commerce, Realtors' Association and Labor Council, among others. Johnson has also been endorsed by Sacramento Vice Mayor Steve Cohn, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, and former Mayor Jimmie Yee.

On June 4, 2008, Kevin Johnson, who led by 8 percentage points, forced a runoff election for mayor versus the 2-term incumbent. 374 of 378 precincts were reported, and Johnson was ahead of Mayor Heather Fargo 47% to 40%. 5 other candidates split the rest of the vote. The candidates needed more than 50% to win the election. Third place finisher, Leonard Padilla, endorsed Mayor Fargo on June 4, 2008. Johnson, by late May, loaned his campaign $ 500,000 and raised $ 490,000, while Fargo raised $ 340,000 despite having started fundraising in 2005.

2008 primary election for mayor of Sacramento

Candidate Support Outcome
Kevin Johnson 32,160 (46.58%) Runoff
Heather Fargo 27,472 (39.36%) Runoff
Leonard Padilla 4,231 (6.06%) Defeated
Shawn D. Eldredge 2,462 (3.53%) Defeated
Muriel Strand 2,104 (3.01%) Defeated
Richard Jones 679 (0.97%) Defeated
Adam Daniel 407 (0.58%) Defeated
Write-in 280 (0.40%) Defeated
Johnson and Fargo will proceed to a runoff election in November.


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