Thursday, February 22, 2007

Passing of Greatness

This past year in the NBA has been one filled with many tragic losses. In roughly four months some of the most recognizable figures in the league's history have passed away.

On October 28, 2006, the well-known basketball god Red Auerbach passed away from a heart attack five weeks after his 89th birthday. During his tenure as the Celtic's head coach, Auerbach impressively won 9 NBA titles, including 8 straight from 1959-1966. His impact on the game will be remembered for his ability to consistently build winning teams in Boston. Auerbach branched great basketball generations across the board from Bill Russell to John Havlichek to Dave Cowens to Larry Bird. In 2001, Auerbach came back to the Celtics after having been retired since 1997. Again, he brought the magic backb by guiding Boston to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals.

On December 12, 2006, one of the original founders of the present day NBA passed away at the age of 78 in his sleep. Paul Arizin played his entire career with the Philadelphia Warriors (1950-1962) and was elected as one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players in 1996. An inspiration for all who live with asthma, Arizin played in a time when the dunk first was introduced. He is known for saying that in the early ages if someone tried to dunk on you, you tried to take their legs out. In 1959, Arizin helped the Warriors when their first NBA title. For his career, "Pitchin' Paul" averaged 23 points and 9 rebounds, respectively.

The most recent passing of a NBA legend, was easily the most shocking. On February 22, 2007, Dennis "DJ" Johnson passed away after NBA Development League practice for the Austin Toros. Johnson died at the age of 52. Commonly throughout his career, the quick-witted defender was overlooked by more known stars around him. After winning an NBA title and Finals MVP award in 1979 with the Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson played one more year before heading to Phoenix for three years. His last stint of his career is Johnson's most well known. As a Boston Celtic, Johnson was featured alongside Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish, Johnson did nothing less than fit in perfectly with Red Auerbach's team. In 1984 and 1986, DJ provided the key ingredients for championship teams. One of his most shining moments was against the Detroit Pistons in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. Few seconds remained when Detroit looked to pass the ball in with a one point lead. On the inbounds the pass was stolen by Bird who quickly dished it out to DJ for the game winning basket. In his NBA tenure, Johnson averaged 14 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game, respectively.

The NBA will greatly miss these 3 extraordinary men...

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