James Johnson is an established martial artist and kickboxer who makes the game of hoops a delight to watch going by his competitive edge and accurate delivery of dunks. It is no news that his broad knowledge of martial arts has made him so much more flexible and efficient as a power/ small forward for the Miami Heat of the NBA. Here’s more on the details of this phenomenal baller.
James Johnson’s Bio
The NBA player was born into a family where athletics is esteemed. This is no surprise anyway, as he hails from a Samoan heritage on his mother’s side. The Samoan people are very visible in sports such as boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and sumo. Arguably the world’s best in wrestling, the Anoa’i dynasty which are known for their high production of top wrestlers such as Rikishi, Umaga, Yokozuna, Roman Reigns, and The Usos. The Rock, Dwayne Johnson also has a link to this dynasty via his maternal grandfather.
The Johnson family are ingrained into kickboxing and MMA (more on that later). James Patrick Johnson, the Heat’s forward was born the middle child among nine children (7 boys and 2 girls) to Willie Johnson who was a black belt kickboxer and Vi Johnson, also a professional kickboxer on the 20th day of February 20, 1987, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He also has an African-American ancestry from his father.
Before he became the pro basketball player we know today, he was a martial arts prodigy nicknamed ‘Little Ali’ by his parents due to his quick footwork and all-around speed. He also played football and only took to the hoops in eighth grade. He was undefeated and holds a second-degree black belt as well as won seven world karate titles and nine national championships in his brief combat sports career.
James Johnson had his first MMA bout when he was 18 and was declared the winner after 97 seconds. He beat then 31-year-old Damon Clark who went on to fight professionally. He also set 21-0 record in kickboxing competition and would like to be signed to the UFC after his hoops career although he would have done that after high school had there been scholarships for kickboxing or mixed martial arts instead of just basketball and football. Nevertheless, he brings his mixed martial arts background to the basketball court and wows therein.
Johnson attended Cheyenne East High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he shone on the court. As a junior, he led his team to the 2006 Class 4A state championship and averaged 28 points and 9 rebounds per game during his senior year. He was rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com coming out of high school and was also ranked as the No. 16 small forward and the No. 62 player in the nation in 2007.
He enrolled at Wake Forest University where he played for the Demon Deacons men’s basketball team from 2007 to 2009. Through the years he played, he garnered third-team All-ACC honors both as a freshman and sophomore as well as led the team in scoring as a freshman and in rebounding for the two seasons. Johnson declared his eligibility for the 2009 NBA draft after his sophomore season.
NBA Career Stats
He was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the first round (16th overall) of the draft. With his selection into the NBA, James Johnson became the second player of Samoan heritage to play in the league since Wally Rank in the 1980’s.
The Bulls assigned him to the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League in January 2011 but recalled him on February 14, 2011. Johnson was traded to the Toronto Raptors a few days later and then on July 16, 2012, he was again traded to the Sacramento Kings. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks on the last day of September 2013 but was waived 21 days later. Shortly after being waived, he was acquired by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in November and in 10 games with them, averaged 18.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 3.4 blocks per game. Following his Vipers’ stint, he signed with the Memphis Grizzlies in December where he remained until July 2014.
Johnson returned for a second stint with the Raptors on July 17, 2014. In the team, he posted a career-high 27 points in February 2015. When the time came for his boat to set sail once again, it did and harbored at Miami Heat. James Johnson signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2016. In eight seasons of his career, he played for five teams and was finally set to find his best game and probably mark his longest stay on a team.
With the Heat, he is doing things he’s never done in his career, apparently repaying the faith shown by the front office and coaching staff, by producing stellar seasons to make up for the less playing time and opportunities he had with his past teams. Or he may, at last, be proving why he was a first-round pick out of Wake Forest. He has also proved versatile off the bench and has provided an exceptional and reliable presence in the team.
In his first season with Miami Heat, he played in a career-best 76 games, averaged 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals in 27.4 minutes per game. For the 2017-2018 season, Johnson played in 73 games, averaged 10.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists. Throughout his career, he has appeared in 547 games, averaged 8.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists.
He agreed to a four-year contract with the Miami Heat with a fourth-year player option, in July 2017.
Salary, Net Worth
Martial arts may be an heirloom for Johnson but basketball remains his labor of love. Every labor comes with its commensurate wage and he receives his. His latest deal is a four-year contract worth $60 million with Miami Heat. His net worth has not been revealed.
James Johnson’s Family
The Johnson’s is a clan of warriors. As earlier stated, their patriarch, Willie, a former Marine is a sixth-degree black belt. However, that is only a fraction of his achievements in the combat sports arena. He’s also a seven-time world kickboxing champion with five world and 10 national karate titles. He grew up fighting and trained his children in MMA, kickboxing and Kenpo karate. Willie runs J & P’s martial arts studio in Cheyenne.
His wife is equally a black belt holder and a five-time national winner as a competitor. She is a Samoan immigrant who began street fighting as a teenage gang leader of the Krook City Bloods in Oceanside.
The Johnson kids took well after their folks with each of them being black belts of varying degree. They have all also won national titles or been runners-up.
The Heat’s forward was married to Callie Johnson for two years. After series of domestic assaults on his wife in 2014, the couple divorced. He has two sons, Harlem and Naymin (born March 9, 2013, whose name he inscribed around his neck).
He is 6’8″ (2.03 m) and as such, a matchup problem because he can extend his game beyond the three-point line and shoot over smaller defenders or even score against slower opponents inside the lane. His body weighs 240 lb (109 kg).