My wife gave birth to our son almost three months ago. He will be raised a Hawks fan, manipulated and indoctrinated....
....but he will probably never grow up hearing about Joe Johnson. Not like he will Dominique or Glavine or Chipper or probably even Josh Smith.
I find it so odd that it has come to this. Rooting for only the second major free agent signing in my Hawks fandom history to get out of town as quickly as possible. Was the contract really that bad? Somehow Joe morphed from franchise redeemer to Jeff Blauser all for doing what any of us would have done.
But then again, that was Joe Johnson. A man who never made much sense and yet always made complete sense. He came to Atlanta advertised as our 6'7'' 240 pound point guard. Somehow it seemed like it could work and yet could never work. Joe was a guy always quiet and professional until he dropped playoff soundbite bombs on the fan base. He made the same terrific curl around a screen, hesitation slow dribble floater the first play of every game for five years and shot the identical, terrible isolation 22 foot jumpers in the fourth over the same period. He made me hit my budding screaming "Joe "freaking" Johnson" more times than I can count and forced me to mutter to myself "Joe f@#$%^& Johnson" an amount of times I can definitively give you (because I logged those terrible bastards). Joe was the king of "how does he have 23 points?" and "why does he have only 23 points?". Joe led some of the most sustained success the Hawks have ever seen yet in his tenure, I only had four moments of real hope. When the Hawks signed him, the 2008 playoffs, after the first win against the Bulls in the second round, and the day we traded him. Joe is the most blah resurrector of the franchise anyone has ever seen. At the same time, I don't care if Horford and Josh helped pull him out of the grave, Joe is still the one that brought the dead back to life.
Yet what will I tell my son? There once was a player that annoyed me until he thrilled me until he annoyed me again? Once was a Hawk who we overpaid to do exactly what we thought he could do but were still upset he could not do more? Should I say, "Son, do you want see what happens when you expect elite from excellent? Let me tell you about a man we called JJ." No, Joe Johnson was the worst narrative the NBA has seen in a while. In that sense, he was a true Atlanta Hawk. But then again, I am a true Hawks fan.
So maybe down the line I will not speak of the glamourous game of Joe Johnson, but I won't complain either. If Joe's game will be remembered as unspectacular years from now, our complaints about him will look equally as petty. I shall neither idolize nor crucify. What I will do, with my son, with my friends, at games and over arguments over why the Hawks are worth rooting for, is talk about how much fun I had. And damn was it fun.
No, I am not going to sell my son on Hawks basketball with stories of Joe Johnson's exploits, but you better believe I am going to sell him on how Joe Johnson led teams made me feel, made me cheer, made me yell, made me mad, made me dream. Before Joe Johnson came to Atlanta, I was someone who hoped for the Hawk. In the end, he provided little hope, but now I am fan of the Hawks. For that, I will be forever grateful. For that, with all sincerity and best wishes, I say thank you Joe.