“I’d like to thank God for waking me up this morning, my teammates, coaches,” joked Amir Johnson during an impromptu acceptance speech to the media, on the day he would play his 500th career NBA game.
“Is it really? Wow,” he said rhetorically, pausing after a moment of laughter while setting down the microphone he picked up, as if he were holding a golden statue.
“It’s a blessing man, to have played that many games,” said Johnson.
It’s been a long eight years for the 26-year-old who began his career with the Detroit Pistons in 2005-2006.
Johnson, from Los Angeles, played in only three games that season, the first of which earned him some attention for his first NBA basket, scored on January 24, 2006.
“I remember my first two points, cause it’s on YouTube,” he said. ” It was the windmill dunk against Minnesota, I’ll always remember that.”
Johnson was traded to Toronto in June 2009 and has held a prominent role as the franchise has grown to what it is presently.
For Raptors head coach, Dwane Casey, Johnson has evolved a great deal as a player in his three years of coaching the club.
“His confidence level has grown, his offensive game, we try to pick out match-ups where we can post him up, where he can attack the basket offensively, but his consistency is the number one thing you get out of Amir, you know what you’re going to get each and every night” said Casey.
“Does he make mistakes? Yes, we all do,” he added. “With that said, consistently he’s going to give you the effort, consistently you know you can put him on their best post-up guy and get an honest days work.”
On the day of his 500th game, which he’ll play against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Air Canada Centre, Johnson is averaging 10.8 points, 6.8 rebounds during an average of 29.5 minutes in 60 games as a starter this season.
It’s a blessing that I get to continue to keep on playing through all the injuries I’ve been through,” said Johnson.
“Just to wake up every morning and to love what you do and continue on playing.”