Kevin Maurice Johnson (born March 4, 1966) is the current mayor of Sacramento, the capital city of the U.S. state of California, and the husband of Michelle Rhee. Elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012, Johnson is the first African American to serve in that office. Prior to entering politics, Johnson was a professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), playing point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns.
Following his senior season of college basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Johnson with the seventh pick in the 1987 NBA draft. Originally drafted by Cleveland to challenge the incumbent point guard Mark Price for the starting spot, Johnson found himself playing limited minutes as Price’s backup during the 1987-88 NBA season.
But even before Johnson played his first regular season game with Charles Barkley, he suffered an undiagnosed hernia in October 1992 when he attempted to lift obese rookie teammate Oliver Miller off the ground during warmups before a preseason game. By the middle of the ’95-’96 season, Johnson had suffered a second undiagnosed hernia. Primarily due to the groin, hamstring, quadriceps, and other muscle strains stemming from these undiagnosed hernias, Johnson missed 109 regular season games during his four seasons with Barkley from ’92-’93 through ’95-’96 (although he only missed one playoff game during his entire career). When diligent off-season workouts during the summer of 1996 failed to erase the abdominal and groin pain that had been plaguing Johnson since the middle of the last season, the Suns’ doctors finally diagnosed the second hernia just after the start of training camp in the fall of 1996. Then, during surgery to repair the hernia, the Phoenix doctors discovered the second, “hidden” hernia that had existed for four years.
Despite the undiagnosed hernia problems, K.J. continued to thrive in the postseason like few other point guards in the 1990s.
In 1994, he averaged 26.6 points and 9.6 assists in the postseason, scoring 38 points three different times in ten games.
In 1995, after an injury-riddled regular season, Johnson returned to form in the postseason. He averaged 24.8 points on 57.3% shooting from the field and 9.3 assists in ten games, including 43 points (18-24 FG) with 9 assists in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals versus Houston and 46 points (21-22 FT) with 10 assists in Game Seven. During that series, K.J. sank more three-pointers (5) than he’d hit in the entire ’94-’95 regular season (4).
In Game Four of the previous year’s series with Houston, Johnson completed a remarkable play, driving the baseline and dunking over 7’0” Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon. The shot became an oft-played highlight for the ages and was part of a second consecutive 38-point, 12-assist effort by the point guard.
During his 12-year playing career, Johnson was a three times NBA All-Star and four-time second team All-NBA selection, along with holding numerous records for the Phoenix Suns organization. At the University of California, Berkeley, Johnson was named a two-time All-Pac-10 Conference player and an honorable-mention All-American by the Associated Press.
In the summer of 1994, Johnson played with the U.S. National Team, otherwise known as Dream Team II, in the 1994 FIBA World Championship, reuniting with old teammate and point guard rival Mark Price to win the gold medal. Johnson led Dream Team II in both total assists (31) and assists per game (3.9) while shooting 47.1% (16–34) from the field and 50.0% (16-32) on two-point field goal attempts. The U.S. head coach, Don Nelson, stated, “I really like having KJ on the court. The thing that stood out is how he sacrificed his scoring to be a distributor of the ball and make his team win. We didn’t need his offense on this team. We did need his defense, penetration and assists. He gave us all three.
Johnson has a B.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley that he completed after his initial retirement from the NBA. Since founding St. HOPE in 1989, Johnson has been active in education reform. As Mayor, Johnson launched two education initiatives, Stand UP and Sacramento READS!, to benefit students in Sacramento. Johnson also helped to save the Sacramento Kings basketball team from moving to Anaheim, and later, Seattle.
Career highlights and awards
3× NBA All-Star (1990, 1991, 1994)
4× All-NBA Second Team (1989–1991, 1994)
All-NBA Third Team (1992)
NBA Most Improved Player (1989)
J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (1991)
No. 7 retired by Phoenix Suns
2× First-team All-Pac-10 (1986, 1987)
No. 11 retired by University of California
Career NBA statistics
Points 13,127 (17.9 ppg)
Assists 6,711 (9.1 apg)
Steals 1,082 (1.5 spg)
Competitor for the United States
FIBA World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1994 Canada Team competition