Brooklyn has long since been known as a cultural Mecca, breeding artists, writers, musicians and other notables. Though many athletes got their start in the borough, it hasn't played home to a legitimate sports franchise since the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in 1957. That is, until this basketball season, when the Brooklyn Nets became the second NBA franchise in New York City.
Six-time all star Joe Johnson was traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the relocated team during the 2012 offseason. He has already made an impact on and off the court. EBONY recently sat down with Joe Johnson to discuss his career, his move to the Big Apple and plans for this season.
EBONY: Growing up in Arkansas, did you always believe you were going to become a professional basketball player?
Joe Johnson: It was always a dream of mine, but I didn’t think it was going to become a reality. I just tried to put in the hard work to make it become a reality. I didn’t honestly think I had a chance until I was in the 12th grade. I didn’t have thoughts about going to the league straight from high school. We used to have NBA scouts who would come up to our gym and some of our games. This alone opened my eyes to bigger and brighter things. At that point, I really wanted to make my dream a reality. When I first started playing basketball, I never imagined I would be playing in the NBA. I started playing because I loved the game. It was pretty significant that I made it coming from the high school that I attended in Arkansas.
EBONY: When you were younger, who were some of the players that you wanted to craft your game after?
JJ: One of the guys I used to love watching when I was a younger was definitely Penny [Hardaway] because we were the same height. The way he could handle the ball and make guys around him better was special. I always envisioned myself being a big point guard or a big guy who could handle the ball and make those types of plays.
EBONY: What were your initial thoughts when you were traded to the Brooklyn Nets,?
JJ: To be honest, I had no clue. At the time, things were so up in the air. Deron [Williams] hadn’t signed because he was still undecided. I was really walking into a blind situation. I didn’t know what was going on. Obviously, with him not knowing where he was going to sign made a big difference. But — when I found out that he signed with the Nets, I thought it was a great move in so many ways. It was going to give me a chance to play with a great point guard and not have to do a lot of work offensively.
EBONY: What are some of your personal goals for this season?
JJ: I’ve done quite a bit in my twelve years in the league. I try to have some small goals during the season and try to reach those as well as making more goals as the season goes along. I think this team won 22 games last season. I want to have at least that amount of wins by mid-January this season. This is one of my personal and team goals. I want to make the playoffs and make some noise while we’re in the playoffs. Other than that, I don’t really have any more personal goals or hidden agendas.
EBONY: You were with the Atlanta Hawks for eight seasons before arriving in Brooklyn. How has your transition to a new city and NBA franchise gone thus far?
JJ: My transition to New York and this organization in Brooklyn has been a little different. I’m from the South and it’s a much slower pace than New York. It’s been a great move. I’ve been enjoying every moment and the fact we’ve been playing pretty good has definitely put the icing on the cake. It hasn’t been a hectic situation for me. You would think with the travel and traffic in New York it would be harder, but it has been smooth sailing up to this point.
EBONY: Have you had a chance to interact with Jay-Z or any other celebrities from Brooklyn since joining the team this year?
JJ: I got a chance to hang out with Fabolous for a few hours. We did his little gig that he had for MTV. And that was pretty cool. I haven’t really had a chance to speak to Jay. I’ve shaken his hand and said what’s up, but that’s about it. I had a chance to hang out with Rosie Perez. Me and her did a little date thing for our TV show, The Association. Honestly, I’ve learned so much about New York and the borough of Brooklyn. I didn’t know Brooklyn had so many people and that there were so many stars from Brooklyn.
EBONY: What has the experience been like filming The Association?
JJ: It has been fun. It has been a little different because there are cameras everywhere we go, but after a while you don’t even notice the cameras. They can only bother you for so long. It becomes second nature having them around now. I, honestly forget that The Association even comes on. The only time I hear about it is when someone calls me to ask me a question about it. For the most part, it’s just what we’re going through at this point in time.
EBONY: As a six-time all star, you’ve been able to play with some incredible players during your career. How do you feel about your team’s prospects this year?
JJ: I think it is possible for us to make a title run this year. At this point, it’s important for us to keep guys healthy. We’re still trying to gel as a team. We’re just playing off of raw talent right now and we’ve been winning games. Just from watching film, there are still a lot of times where we don’t have a clue on where we should be within the offense. But we’ve been managing to pull wins out. By January or February, everything will be clicking and we’ll be on the same page.
EBONY: This is your twelfth season in the league. How much longer do you see yourself playing in the NBA?
JJ: I really don’t even know. I’m 31 and this is my twelfth year. I feel good and, God willing, I stay healthy. Who knows how long I’m going to play? I’m just taking it one day at a time and I’m enjoying it…twelve years goes by fast!
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.