Series: Six Degrees of #FORCENATION
Boston Celtics Edition (3)
Starting Celtics forward Amir Johnson was one of the first “marquee” NBA players to be assigned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce. After being drafted straight out of high school, the Detroit Pistons assigned Johnson to the Skyforce on January 8, 2007. Johnson appeared in 22 games (22 starts) for Sioux Falls, averaging 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
We had a chance to catch up with Johnson over the offseason to reflect on his early NBA career and his time spent in Sioux Falls. Here’s what he had to say:
You were the last player to be drafted straight out of high school before the one-and-done era began, what was that experience like?
Being drafted straight out of high school was a dream come true. That is the moment you wait your entire life for. That’s when I knew I could live my dream of playing basketball for a living and I’d be able to take care of my family. The ability to provide for my family was the purpose of me declaring when I did. At that time I didn’t know I would be the last player to be drafted straight out of high school but it’s pretty cool that I was.
Share a few thoughts on your time in the D-League, and specifically here in Sioux Falls with the Skyforce. How did it help you grow as a player and a person?
My time in the D-League with the Skyforce was good for me. It kept my motor going. It kept me in shape and ready to go both mentally and physically for when I was called up. The city of Sioux Falls was a great town as well. It fit my personality. It was chill, just like me. There weren’t a lot of distractions and I enjoyed going to the movies a lot. It allowed me to stay focused on what I was doing on the court so I wouldn’t lose sight of my end goal and I’d always be prepared for what was yet to come.
After a dominant performance in the D-League throughout the 2006-07 season, the Pistons finally offered you your first long-term contract. Describe what went through your mind and how that felt?
To be honest, the first thing I thought when the Pistons offered me my first long-term contract was that I was happy I was going to be able to buy my mom a house. That was always a personal goal of mine. I wanted to thank her for everything she did for me growing up and I knew that would mean a lot to her. It also felt great to realize all of my hard work had paid off and I had solidified myself as a player in the NBA.
After years of hard work, you’ve become one of the more valuable power forwards in the NBA. Looking back, what advice do you have for D-League players trying to replicate a story like yours?
The advice I would give to players in the D-League would be to work hard, never give up and always be able to take constructive criticism.