Suns Remember KJ's Dunk, Career and Legacy
Nearly every Suns fan has fond memories and opinions of Kevin Johnson, but I wanted to track down some from those who knew him best: including former teammates (Mark West and Jeff Hornacek), the Voice of the Suns (Al McCoy) and current Phoenix big man and long-time Suns fan Channing Frye.
The four of them looked back at the dunk, skills and legacy that defines the man who Suns fans came to know simply as "KJ."
How do you remember KJ’s dunk over Hakeem?
WEST: It was an unbelieveable play. He went baseline and just rose up and flushed it. I think I was on the bench ‘cause I remember just grabbing somebody and being like ‘can you believe it?’
McCOY: It was a little baseline move as I recall. Hakeem was there defensively and [Johnson] just went up and dunked over him. it was part of an exciting moment in a ball game.
FRYE: It was one of those things that everybody wanted to do on their hoops. That was so huge, you know. Olajuwon was that guy and KJ being the little guy just symbolizes the opportunity of the underdog overtaking the giant.
At the time, did you think the dunk would become one of the all-time great plays it is considered today?
WEST: I think so, because Hakeem was one of the greatest rim protectors in the history of the league. That right there probably raised it to another status…I think the fact of Hakeem’s greatness just added to the allure.
McCOY: No and I don’t think KJ did either….I don’t think anybody thought it was going to be as big a deal, but obviously an exciting dunk and one that people never forget.
FRYE: I didn’t even think about it at the time. I just thought it was awesome dunk. It’s up there with the John Starks dunk over the Bulls and the Vince Carter [dunk] jumping over [Frederick Weis in the 2000 Olympics]. It’s just one of those all-time great dunks.
How do you remember or describe KJ’s game compared to today’s elite point guards?
McCOY: It’s a different game today, beause when Kevin Johnson was playing, the defensive player had a lot more latitude. They could knock you down, grab you, hold you. Now you can barely touch a point guard without being whistled for a foul. KJ, who was a guy that would drive the ball to the basket, played with a lot of authority, he took a lot of hits. He took a lot of hard hits.
FRYE: I think tenacity was there. Back then they were a little bit more physical. I think now it’s more of a game of speed and athleticism. He would’ve done as great in this generation as he did in the last.
HORNACEK: He was a great player, one that was electrifying. The crowd loved to watch [him].
Why do you think Kevin Johnson still resonates with Suns fans to the degree he does today?
HORNACEK: Kevin was here when they went to the Finals, which everybody talks about. He’s a big part of that. Especially now, with the team we have now, it probably resonates even more because it was kind of the same situation back when he came here in ’88.
McCOY: He had a great career here…after that first year – that trade happened in February of 1988 – the next seven years when Kevin Johnson was here, the Suns won a ton of games. It was a real winning streak for the Suns during that period. KJ was one of the premier point guards at that time.