- Four-time All-NBA Second Team (1989-1991, 1994)
- All-NBA Third Team (1992)
- Three-time NBA All-Star (1990-1991, 1994)
- NBA Most Improved Player (1989)
- Ring of Honor member
- Played more than 10 full seasons for Phoenix (1988-1998, 2000)
Place in Franchise History:
- Franchise leader in free throws made (3,851) and free throws attempted (4,579).
- Fifth all time in games (683); fourth in minutes (24,018); fourth in field goals made (4,369); fifth in field goals attempted (8,849); 10th in defensive rebounds (1,855); second in assists (6,518); fourth in steals (1,022); third in points (12,747); seventh in free-throw percentage (84.1 percent); fourth in player efficiency rating (21); second in offensive rating (118.5); second in offensive win shares (69.8); fifth in defensive win shares (21.1); second in total win shares (90.9).
Best Season with Suns:
1990-91: 22.5 points, 11.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks, 49.9/19.5/83.8 shooting splits. (Named All-Star and All-NBA Second Team member; Suns lost in Western Conference finals 4-2 to Portland Trail Blazers).
While comprising the top-15 players in Phoenix Suns history, nobody bounced around more than Kevin Johnson. He was as low as No. 6 and cemented himself at No. 5 for a long time, but ultimately I feel confident locking him at No. 4 on the all-time list.
Off the cuff, many diehard Suns fans would put KJ in their top three without thinking twice. He made the All-NBA Second Team four times and the All-NBA Third Team once. He averaged at least 20 points and 10 assists in three seasons for the Suns and was one of the most explosively athletic point guards the game had ever seen.
His stats and accolades show just how great of an athlete he was, but there’s a big reason why he doesn't crack the top three.
In the 1993 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls, KJ choked.
As Bill Simmons writes in The Book of Basketball:
He helped blow the ’93 Finals by choking so memorably during Phoenix’s first two home games, Suns coach Paul Westphal actually had to bench him for Frankie Johnson in crunch time at the end of Game 2. By the time KJ pulled it together in Game 3, the Suns had squandered their home-court advantage and had no realistic chance of coming back—nobody was beating MJ in four out of five games during Jordan’s apex.
For reference, here are Johnson’s stats from Games 1 and 2 of the 1993 finals:
Game 1: 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting (30.8 percent), two rebounds, two assists, five turnovers.
Game 2: Four points on 2-of-8 shooting (25 percent), zero rebounds, six assists, four turnovers, fouled out.
So although Johnson was a major reason why the Suns made the finals in the first place, his failure to play anywhere close to his usual standards ensured that the Suns wouldn’t beat the Bulls. Dropping two home games to open the finals was equivalent to the team digging its own grave.
Like Walter Davis, though, Johnson helped lead Phoenix to the Western Conference finals in just his second season as a Sun (1988-89). Alongside a tremendous postseason performance from Tom Chambers, KJ averaged 23.8 points, 12.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals during the playoff run.
The Suns swept the Denver Nuggets 3-0 in Round 1, and then dispatched the Golden State Warriors 4-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.
In the Western Conference finals, Phoenix was ousted by the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-game sweep.
For reference, the starting five of that '89 Lakers team was: Magic Johnson, Byron Scott, James Worthy, A.C. Green and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was certainly a David versus Goliath matchup even though Kareem was in his final season at 41 years old.
KJ is fondly remembered in Suns lore for being a courageous competitor who fearlessly attacked the basket—evidenced by his franchise-leading free throw attempts and makes.
But Johnson’s reckless style of play had its negatives. He missed 15 or more games in five of his 11 seasons. Let’s just say he wasn’t exactly durable.
Johnson is a Ring of Honor member and one of the best Suns ever to lace up the sneakers. However, his injury history and costly choke job in the ’93 finals leave a stain on his otherwise sterling resume.