DISCLAIMER: This video features multiple impressive Joe Johnson game winners and very little photos. Your welcome.
UTAH signed Joe Johnson for moments like this. Game 1. 1st round. Rudy Gobert has gone down with a knee injury 17 seconds into the game. Chris Paul just tied the ball game up with a runner off the glass and the home crowd is hype. 13 seconds left. Utah inbounds the ball, opting not to use their time out. Joe Johnson has the rock. 10 seconds. He gets the switch he wants with Jamal Crawford guarding him. 6 seconds. He goes hard to the paint as he does a thousand times before. The seconds tick away and floats a shot over DeAndre Jordan’s outstretched arm. 2 seconds. It hits the back of the rings, skies up and caresses off the backboard. The buzzer sounds. If you know Johnson you already know the result.
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WE really shouldn’t have been surprised at the outcome of Johnson’s shot. After all crushing fans and opponents hearts at the buzzer is something Johnson does better than anyone else in the league. Johnson nailed 12 game winners in a four year span earlier in his career (’03-’04 to ’07-’08). His eight buzzer beating winners are the most in the league over the past ten years forcing us to legitimately ask how high up the ladder Johnson deserves to be placed for ‘most clutch player ever’. I know that may be a big call due to his name and not having the credentials or the presence of players like Melo, Reggie Miller, Kobe and Jordan, but it’s not a statement to be sneezed at.
Image from thefranchis3.com
AFTER an few seasons of finding his feet in the NBA, Johnson landed in Atlanta, where he became a star for the Hawks. After making the transition in 2005, Johnson reeled off six All Star appearances and averaged close to 21 PPG over his six year tenure. Atlanta never reached great heights in the ‘Iso Joe’ era, but his talents were obvious. Johnson helped the Hawks reach the conference semifinals three years straight, and in the process emerged as one of the best scorers in the NBA. He was rewarded in the star studded summer of 2010, with the like of LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudamire, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade all free agents, by signing a ridiculous contract. The six year $123.7 million dollar deal made Johnson the highest player in the NBA at that point.
THE mid-gam maestro coped a lot of unnecessary flak during his latter Atlanta Hawks years for the contract he signed that offseason. His production started to decline in his 30’s from a PPG standpoint, but his heroics were far from over. Honestly over a 2ish year stretch in 2012-14 Joe Johnson was one of my favourite players in the NBA. I mean he must have done a decent job to capture my attention to make me buy a Brooklyn Nets Johnson jersey (officially making me the only Aussie who owns one). Over that span with the Nets he averaged an uninspiring 15 points a game, chalking up one All Star appearance in 2013-14. He did however help to drag an uninspiring Nets team to reasonable amounts of success, emerging as an end of game killer the likes of which we as casual fans love to cheer for and watch their end of game play with intent.
THAT video above captured Johnson’s clutch shots from just one season and he continued to star at the end of games for the Nets during his stay in Brooklyn. As mentioned above he was never the dominant force that he once was in Atlanta, yet it doesn’t detract from his legacy. That Nets team never achieved what they wanted to by mortgaging their future, but it wasn’t to the fault of Johnson, who helped to mentor younger players on the team. As the Nets declined Johnson found himself in a position to be bought out and try attain the one thing that had alluded him his entire career. A NBA championship. And after 20ish games with the Miami Heat and a failed playoff run las year, Johnson decided to take his talents elsewhere.
SIGNING with Utah was lost amongst the hype and headline making move of Kevin Durant and Al Horford amongst others last off-season. Utah however, were rubbing their hands together with excitement. They knew what they were getting in Johnson to support their youthful core and much like a fine wine Johnson continues to get better with age. With less than five minutes on the clock of games within five points this playoffs ‘Iso Joe’ is an ice cold 8/10 from the field. After grinding out a seven game series against the Clippers, Utah now face the juggernaut that is Golden State and while a series victory would be a hail mary, never say never when Johnson has the rock at the end of a game. His 10 points a game this year haven’t garnered much attention, but Johnson doesn’t care. Because he knows when it matters most he will have the ball in his hands and will continue to break hearts of NBA fans around the globe. So stop acting surprised and enjoy the marvel that is a Joe Johnson game winner while we still can.
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