Before he was a two-term mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson was a three-time NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns. Johnson and NBA legend Charles Barkley led the Suns to a 62-20 record and the Western Conference championship before falling to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 4-2 in the 1993 NBA Finals. One of the greatest guards in franchise history, Johnson was a four-time second-team All-NBA point guard and his No. 7 jersey is retired by the Suns. He was a graduate of Sacramento High School and UC Berkeley and was elected as Mayor of Sacramento in 2008 and served until 2016. Johnson broke down the NBA Finals between his former team and the Milwaukee Bucks. He likes Phoenix’s chances, but he thinks his ‘93 squad could beat the 2021 Suns.
Q: What’s your analysis of this series given the way the Suns took care of business in games one and two? Your prediction?
A: The Suns are playing without a doubt the best basketball in the NBA over the last 30 days. They’re 13-2 overall against the best competition and are playing solid, efficient, and exciting ball. I firmly believe they (will) win this series; likely in five or six games.
Q: How does this team compare with the team you and Charles Barkley took to the Finals?
A: There are definitely a lot of similarities, but the major difference is Charles Barkley. Charles was coming off an MVP season, was a freak of nature and there really wasn’t anything on the basketball court he couldn’t accomplish.
Q: What is the most significant rule change since you played for the title?
A: Hand-checking for sure. When I played, defensive players could use their hands to impede the ball handlers movement towards the basket. It made the game much more physical and placed a greater emphasis on big men as guards could be more easily neutralized. The rule slowly evolved and hand-checking was completely removed from the game in the early 2000s. Now, defensive players cannot touch ball handlers without drawing a foul. It speeds up the game and places a greater emphasis on ball handlers.
Q: How have the league, players and refereeing evolved? How would your Finals team have performed with the way the game is played today?
A: As stated above, the changes would make the game a lot easier for me, and especially someone like Charles. I think we would have played a faster paced game and our shooters like Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge would have been even more open.
Q: What is your assessment of the point guard play of 36-year-old Chris Paul?
A: Outstanding. His control of the game and leadership he provides his team are unparalleled. At this stage of his career, everyone is rooting for Chris to win a ring and he is doing everything necessary to accomplish that goal. It’s wonderful to watch.
Q: Nearly 30 years later, do you look back at your Finals appearance as an achievement or disappointment?
A: We play the game to win a championship, first and foremost. To not win while being at the threshold is disappointing. However, we accomplished what no Phoenix Suns team has done in the nearly 30 years since and something we’ve never seen here in Sacramento. For that, I’m extremely proud.
Q: What is your fondest memory of the Finals?
A: Playing 63 minutes (an NBA record) in our game-three, triple-overtime victory over the Bulls in Chicago. We needed it and it gave us the boost to tighten the series.
Q: Could your team have beaten this Suns team?
A: Our 93 team would win a match-up without a doubt . . . but I reserve the right to change my opinion depending on how this current series wraps up!!