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Joe Marcus Johnson (1981–)

Joe Marcus Johnson is a professional basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets. In the 2012–13 season, Johnson averaged 16.3 points per game, third best on a team that entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference. With about 16,000 points and counting, Johnson is the second-most prolific NBA scorer from Arkansas, as of 2013; Scottie Pippen of Hamburg (Ashley County) scored 18,940 points in seventeen seasons. Johnson, a six-time All Star, was a member of the U.S. national team in the FIBA World Championship in 2006.

Joe Johnson was born on June 29, 1981, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the only child of Sara Dianne Johnson. For most of his childhood, he was raised in a modest clapboard ranch house on East Roosevelt Road in the Fourche Dam Pike neighborhood, with his maternal grandmother and uncles nearby.

Johnson attended Dunbar Junior High School, but it was not until he attended Central High School that his basketball abilities signaled a potential career in the sport. He was named Sophomore of the Year, then All-Arkansas first team by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In his senior year, he led the Tigers to a state title, averaging 18.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists.

Johnson went to the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he had to sit out the first semester due to academic ineligibility. In the spring semester of 2000, however, Johnson joined a squad that won the 2000 Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament as an underdog.

After a sophomore year in which he averaged 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, Johnson entered the NBA draft and was selected tenth overall by the Boston Celtics. Johnson performed adequately his rookie season, averaging 7.5 points in seventy-seven games but was traded after forty-eight games to the Phoenix Suns, where he would spend the next three seasons. In his third season, he began posting the kinds of numbers—16.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists a game—that would make him an All-Star. During his first five seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, where he averaged 22.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists, he became the kind of marquee player who can command a nine-figure contract, which he got from the Hawks in 2010 when the team signed him to a six-year, $123.7 million contract.

After that, Johnson’s averages fell off, and by his own admission, his best playing days ended. However, he led the Hawks to their best playoff run in recent memory in 2011, when that squad took the top-seeded Bulls to six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Before the 2012–13 season, Johnson was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

Johnson has remained active in his hometown, maintaining a condominium in downtown Little Rock. He held a fundraiser for Governor Mike Beebe’s reelection campaign in 2010, donated money to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, and hosted the 3-on-3 Hoop Jams tournament (benefitting both Arkansas Baptist College and educational programming at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park). He also oversees the Joe Johnson Jammin’ for Jackets high school basketball tournament that raises money to provide letter jackets for underprivileged athletes in central Arkansas.

For additional information:
Ampezzan, Bobby. “Joe Marcus Johnson.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 3, 2011, pp. 1D, 5D.

Demirel, Evin. “No Ordinary Joe.”Slam Online. http://www.slamonline.com/online/the-magazine/features/2012/07/joe-johnson-no-ordinary-joe/ (accessed May 6, 2013).

“Joe Johnson.” Basketball-Reference.com. http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/johnsjo02.html (accessed May 6, 2013).

Bobby Ampezzan
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Last Updated 7/14/2015

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