Phoenix Suns: 30 greatest players of all-time

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /
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Kevin Johnson, Phoenix Suns
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1987-00. Kevin Johnson. 3. player. 66. . Point Guard

In recent years, Kevin Johnson has become associated with the Sacramento Kings not because he ever played for them, but because he was elected mayor of his hometown in 2008. Yet for nearly the entirety of his playing career, Johnson wore the Suns logo on his chest, and performed to great heights while doing so.

A two-sport star growing up, Johnson ultimately chose to pursue basketball over baseball and entered the 1987 NBA Draft. Selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he played just 52 games with them before he was traded as part of a blockbuster package for Larry Nance. While Nance would be a dominant force on the Cavaliers, he would not lead his new team as far as Johnson would lead his.

In his first full season in Phoenix, Johnson upped his scoring average to over 20 points per game, throwing in 12.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game as well. Johnson was the first player in Suns history to average at least 10 assists per game. This was a bar he would clear four times and that would become almost expected with the elite point guard play of the next few decades in Phoenix.

In 1988-89, Johnson, along with players such as Tom Chambers and Jeff Hornacek, led the Suns to the Western Conference Finals, where they were swept by Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The following year, they came back to the same place, this time beating the Lakers in the second round, with Johnson dominating Magic in the deciding games. The team then lost in six games to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Although Johnson continued to be brilliant, the cast around him needed another star. That came in 1992 in the form of “Sir” Charles Barkley. With another mouth to feed, Johnson’s numbers went down, but the trade-off was a team strong enough to beat the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs and the then-Seattle SuperSonics en route to the NBA Finals.

However, they lost in six games to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. That would prove to be the closest the Suns have been since to winning an NBA title.

Johnson stayed in Phoenix for the remainder of his career, all-told 12 seasons. While he made just three All-Star teams, he was named to the All-NBA teams five times, including four Second-Team selections. His 90.9 win shares rank second only to Shawn Marion in franchise history.