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Johnson gets a big honor

Times Staff Writer

Kevin Johnson no longer plays in the NBA, but he can still dish out an assist.

He demonstrated he still has that ability after being presented with the John R. Wooden Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th annual Paralysis Project of America Sports Legends dinner Saturday night at the Omni Hotel.

Introduced by Joanie Campanella, daughter of the late Roy Campanella, Johnson said:

“I’m from Sacramento, not L.A., I played at UC Berkeley, not UCLA, and for the Phoenix Suns, not the Lakers.”

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But he said the man he admires the most is from Los Angeles, that being Wooden.

“I have met presidents, but Coach Wooden is in a whole other category,” Johnson said. “To be introduced by the daughter of Roy Campanella and to receive an award named after Coach Wooden, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Johnson said he made a point of getting to know Wooden during his playing days and learned a very important lesson from the legendary coach.

“Two words,” Johnson said. “Help others.”

With that, Johnson announced he was donating $5,000 to help the Paralysis Project of America find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Trivia time

Johnson was the seventh selection overall in the 1987 draft. What team picked him?

Easy to please

Johnson, who is heavily involved in a number of charitable activities in Sacramento, where he now lives, said that a couple of years ago he asked Wooden to speak at one of his events.

“Usually with someone of his stature you have to talk to an assistant, then another assistant, then a publicist,” Johnson said. “I called Coach Wooden and he said, ‘Let me check my calendar,’ and then he accepted.

“He asked for two things. One, he wanted us to provide a plane since at his age he has trouble negotiating airports. I said we could arrange that, and I wondered what the second thing would be.

“He said he needed a chair because he preferred to sit down while speaking, and I said, ‘I think we can handle that.’ But he ended up standing during his speech anyway.”

A solid slap shot

Among other honorees at Saturday night’s charity event was Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ all-time leading scorer. Robitaille was introduced by Rogie Vachon.

Robitaille chided Vachon, who as the Kings’ general manager drafted him in the ninth round in 1984.

“He drafted Tom Glavine, the pitcher, in the fourth round,” Robitaille said, “even though Glavine had said he wasn’t going to play hockey.”

A King-sized shot

TNT’s Kenny Smith, noting on the air last week that he found it neat that the Sacramento Kings took out a full-page newspaper ad thanking Mike Bibby for his time with the team, said: “I’ve been traded and didn’t get even a letter.”

Said broadcast partner Charles Barkley: “That’s the difference between you and Mike Bibby.”

No winners here

In honor of Sunday night’s Academy Awards, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel created his own list of “Best Sports Picture” finalists.

They included:

* “The Graduate” (an inspirational masterpiece about the lone basketball player who got his degree under Bob Huggins).

* “The Way We Were” (Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens reflect on their lives before their heads grew into pumpkins).

Trivia answer

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who in February of Johnson’s rookie season traded him to the Suns.

And finally

Regarding last week’s game between the Lakers and Suns, featuring Kobe Bryant versus Shaquille O’Neal, Jay Leno said: “For Shaquille, it was just like old times. Kobe didn’t pass him the ball once.”

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larry.stewart@latimes.com


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