If there is one thing this NBA season has taught us, it’s that Steph Curry is not a human being. If you know even the slightest bit about the perfection that is known as Basketball Twitter, you know not one day goes by when the entire timeline doesn’t marvel that Steph Curry and us share the same genotype. SportsCenter can’t go five minutes without bringing up his name, and for good reason too. Just search his name into Vine and you will find a filmography that rivals that of Denzel Washington. But, while the world was (and still is) marveling and the brilliance of one Wardell Curry, a true legend of the game has quietly managed to quietly solidify his already legendary career. He isn’t in any MVP discussions, nor was he even considered for an All-Star spot. Yet, this man has silently had maybe the best season of the NBA season so far. His career has improved so much that not only has he solidified the honor of having the best career this generation, but of all time. This man, this hero, this personification of the American Dream, is none other than the one and only, Joe Johnson.
Before we can give a proper tribute to this American icon, it would be disingenuous to not mention the creators of this concept. This idea was not created by me, but it was inspired by the minds of two of the best follows on Twitter, @DragonflyJonez and @TylerIAm. They introduced me to the idea of Joe Johnson having the most underrated and underappreciated career, (seen here and here). The more you think about it, the more it makes complete sense. Personally, I hate working hard. Working hard requires an exertion of fore and effort I rather not give. There is nothing better than being given something you don’t deserve. Being rewarded even though you didn’t work or put in any effort is like being paid for living, it’s the greatest type of payment. Being rewarded when you don’t deserve to be is also the most American way to live. The Founding Fathers were successful and rich, not because they worked hard, but because their slaves did while they sat back and did nothing. Nothing better illustrates the American Dream than being rewarded when you don’t deserve it, and no man better illustrates that Dream than Joe Johnson
Now, to be clear, I am not saying Joe Johnson is the greatest player ever, or that he had the most accomplished career. There have been innumerable amount of players that have had more accomplished careers as far as championships or personal accolades go. But, no one has been given so much, in return for so little, quite like Joe Johnson. At the end of the next season the NBA’s massive 9 year, $24 billion TV deal will take effect. As shown by last free agency, the expected cap increase will cause NBA contracts to skyrocket. The irony is that this massive increase occurs under the collective bargaining agreement meant to curb such a trend. At one point, the NBA had a terrible contract problem. Teams would sign NBA players to huge extensions that they would often fail to live up to (see Gilbert Arenas, Stephon Marbury, Rashard Lewis, etc.). In response to this the NBA implemented a rule change in their collective bargaining agreement back in 2010. The NBA changed their Bird Exception rules. The max contract that a team is able to give a player as an extension changed from six years with 10.5 percent annual raises to five years with annual raises of 7.5 percent in the new CBA. Joe Johnson was one of the last players to get one of the inflated contracts of the last CBA, and oh what a contract it was.
In 2010 Joe Johnson was coming off of a season where he averaged 21.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game. He turned 29 and it was apparent he had one, maybe two years left in his prime before he begins to decline as a player. He was an All-Star, but not a superstar that deserved a max contract. Yet, somehow, this American hero was able to get a contract that went above and beyond. Joe Johnson was able to finesse his way to a six year, $124 million dollar deal from the Hawks. There was no reason for Joe Johnson to be making this much money. He was a good player that was paid like a Hall of Fame player in his prime. For a person who makes over $20 million per year, Johnson contributed to his team a pedestrian 15.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Few men have ever made more money for les work than Joe Johnson. The Nets paid him $23,180,790 this year alone, and in return he gave them 11.8 points 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game. This should be considered robbery, but it’s completely legal, which is what makes it as inspiring as a Pixar movie. We should all strive to one day be rewarded for so little effort as Joe Johnson has managed to do so throughout all these years. It’s not simply the fact that he’s overpaid which what makes his career the greatest ever, it’s the fact that, no one seems to care.
The Nets are the topic of much ridicule in the basketball world for little over a year now. Ever since their blockbuster trades with the Celtics and Hawks, the franchise had one promising season, only to immediately crash and burn thereafter. They currently have the second worst record in the Eastern Conference, and they won’t have a 1st round pick until 2018. Their disastrous season has been the subject of many ESPN segments, as the blame for the franchise’s failure is put on the shoulders of their billionaire owner, or the GM that appears to have no idea what he’s doing. But the one person that has managed to escape all criticism is, you guessed it, Joe Johnson. No one mentions how he’s being paid like he’s one of the five best players alive, while giving bench player productivity in return. In fact, Joe Johnson has never seemed to be criticized, ever. I challenge anyone alive to think back and recall one time they’ve seen him criticized online, on TV, radio, or any platform. It can’t be done. Johnson has managed to be one of the highest paid players of all time while escaping any major criticism. Joe Johnson’s career is basically the best dream you could dream up, only better.
Joe Johnson was bought out of his contract shortly after the trade deadline passed. He had his choice of teams to choose from, and he chose the Heat. Joe Johnson got fired from his job, and landed in Miami, he couldn’t fail if he tried. Joe Johnson is the American Dream. He has managed to become the 5th highest paid basketball player of all time while taking as much criticism as Damien Inglis. Who is Damien Inglis? Exactly. He should be given a presidential Medal of Freedom for being a proud embodiment of what America is about, and hopefully one day one of us will one day be able to achieve just a marginally similar level of greatness.