We all love Ivan Johnson, the 27-year-old Hawks rookie who plays in diamond fronts, doesn’t watch basketball and is frightening in a friendly kind of way, like the scary guy on your block who is actually pretty nice. In a season that’s seen a lot of random, little known players pop up in games, Johnson’s stood out as a bright spot/human meme who plays as hard as he possibly can at all times.
But if for some reason you weren’t convinced about Ivan Johnson, this public radio interview from 2008 that’s been unearthed should change your mind. Here are a few great parts, as transcribed by Grantland’s Rembert Browne:
Dick: So, what were you thinking was going to become of your basketball career?
IVAN: I didn’t really think nothing of it, was just going to graduate high school and just get a job or whatever.
Dick: You weren’t planning on going to become a professional basketball player?
IVAN: I was gonna try, but there really wasn’t too many schools looking at me.
Dick: What kind of job were you thinking you might get?
IVAN: Driving an 18-wheeler or something.
That’s the funny part, where you nod your head and think that Ivan Johnson’s one of the most truck driver-looking players in the NBA, alongside noted trucksters Brad Miller, Chris Kaman and Anthony Randolph.
This is also the funny part.
Dick: You said that the reason your mother didn’t come to your games was because of your attitude.
IVAN: Yeah, she didn’t like me cursing a lot. And that’s what I used to do on the court.
Dick: Who were you cursing?
IVAN: Just getting mad at myself. Getting mad at my players. Getting mad at the coach for taking me out. Referees. Everybody. People in the stands. [Ivan and Dick both laugh.]
Dick: Was there any one particular incident that you can think of, Ivan, you look back on it now and you think, Oh man, what was I doing?
IVAN: [Sighs] Let me see … When I spit in the crowd. And I punched a hole through the wall in the gym. [Laughs.]
Yes, the time Ivan Johnson spit in the crowd AND punched a hole through a wall in a gym probably was a time when he thought “Oh man, what was I doing?” I can totally see where he’s coming from on that one. Solid choice.
This is the sad part, when he’s down in the D-League, trying to make it and his mom had just died.
IVAN: I mean, I always told her that I’d make it so she wouldn’t have to work no more, and by her passing I told her I promised her that I wouldn’t quit, I wouldn’t give up. So now, that’s my main thing. I know she watching me, so I gotta go hard.
Dick: So you’re still doing it for her.
IVAN: For her, my brother, my niece, my daddy, ’cause don’t none of them people really got nothing right now. I’m the only person that can still do something. If I don’t do something, we’re gonna be out on the streets.
Dick: That’s a lot of pressure you’re putting on yourself, Ivan.
IVAN: Yeah it is, but everybody faces pressure, man.
Dick: You still talk to your mom?
IVAN: Yeah, I talk to her every day. Little stupid stuff I see in the streets. I laugh with her, talk with her, a pillow that she had in the house that she used to sleep on, I keep that with me all the time. Wherever I go, I keep her obituary with me, just so I can see her face, so I won’t forget how she looked. Before she passed, I got her face tattooed on me, so I’ll never forget how she looked. And that means so much to me.
Guh. This should do it. This passage should make you an Ivan Johnson fan, even if you don’t care anything about the Hawks. Moms are the best.