Ask someone about the newest member of the NBL’s 400-game club Daniel Johnson and a common response will be something along the lines of: “I wish I had a funny story for you”.
“Good luck with that one, he probably won’t talk about himself,” teammate Mitch McCarron says when asked for some intel on the league’s most-introverted star.
Wheeled out on media street in the week leading up to his 400th NBL game, the Adelaide big man admits the limelight is “not really my thing — but I’m happy to do it for one week.”
And so he should be. Over the course of 13 NBL seasons and counting, the 34-year-old has over 5500 points — more than any other player in the 40-minute era.
The WA-born giant is a monument in Adelaide. A seven-time club MVP who crossed from the Melbourne Tigers in 2010 to join his former AIS coach Marty Pike at the Sixers and never really considered leaving.
He had plenty of chances, too, with clubs like his hometown Perth, Melbourne United and expansion teams Tasmania and South East Melbourne flashing cheddar at different times in the hope of prying him away from the Sixers.
“I think it’s just the vibe of the place, small city, pretty chilled, not too much traffic,” the WA native told News Corp as he prepares to hit the milestone on Friday night in his side’s clash with the Wildcats.
Watch every game live of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
“I just really like it here and the club’s been good to me.
“The majority of the time, I haven’t really made it to free agency, we’ve sat down and figured it out.
“I haven’t kept it a secret, this is where I want to be, it’s home and I’m very happy here.”
Beloved Sixers’ team manager Jared ‘Jazzy’ Campbell has been at the club for every one of Johnson’s games.
That’s 11-odd years, give or take, and nope, he doesn’t have a speck of dirt on the squeaky-clean Johnson, either.
“I don’t really have anything, because DJ’s never got into trouble and he’s never done anything out of the ordinary,” Campbell said.
“He’s highly intelligent, he’s reliable, comes to work, does his job and cares about his teammates and the people in the club.
“He’s like a Rolls Royce, just cruises along but just gets the job done at a high level, reliable, day in, day out.”
Johnson says keeping a low profile has served him well.
“I haven’t had too many dramas over the years, I’ve just kept my head down and got to work,” he said.
LOVE AND BASKETBALL
Meeting wife Daniela at the end of his first season ensured his roots would always be planted in the City of Churches.
She’s been a constant by his side throughout almost all of those games — following him on pro stops in Puerto Rico, Poland, New Zealand, back to Puerto Rico, Iran, Argentina and Japan.
“She’s been my biggest support and pretty much just picked up and followed me in these off-seasons when I’ve gone and played overseas,” he said.
Now a doting dad to 16-month-old son Judd, those off-season trips might not be on the cards, especially with another little DJ due at the end of NBL23.
“Like everyone says when they have kids, it gives you a bit of a different perspective, just kind of relaxed me a bit,” Johnson says, before adding: “I mean, I was already relaxed, but a bit more.”
“I’m just really enjoying it and I’ve got another one on the way.
“Judd takes after his mother, so he’s pretty loud, but it keeps me on my toes.”
Parenthood has been a connecting fibre with teammates McCarron and Anthony Drmic.
“We have a dad crew going, for sure,” McCarron says.
“I think we’ve just kind of gone through the same stages of life and now we’re at this young dad stage and just sharing stories and just the different things that come with that,” Johnson expands.
“It’s been good to have teammates to go through it with and bounce ideas off.”
WILDCATS NEXT IN WILD SEASON
The Sixers went from pre-season title picks to a talent-laden list with chemistry issues on and off the court.
Import Craig Randall was cast off and the hunt is now on for another playmaking guard who can provide support to McCarron.
“I like the group that we’ve got, there’s obviously a lot of talent there and it’s a pretty diverse group,” Johnson said.
“We obviously need to bring another import in but I think we’re still working on things.
“We’re moving in the right direction but it’s just been a bit of an up-and-down year.
“Hopefully we can peak at the right time and make a run at doing something special.”
The Sixers can start that run — and mark DJ’s milestone — Friday against the re-energised Wildcats, who have won four of their last five, including a last-start domination of top-of-the-table New Zealand.
“It’s going to be a big game — they’re just one spot below us on the ladder,” Johnson said.
“I’m sure they’ll come out with a lot of fire.
“I think they were going through a bit but they’ve slowly figured that out and they’re trending in the right direction.
“I’m hoping we can get a big win and help propel our season forward.”
***Adelaide 36ers (6-6) sixth v Perth Wildcats (6-7) seventh
Friday, December 9, 7pm ACDT, Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Watch on Kayo and ESPN
Originally published as Adelaide 36ers big man Daniel Johnson chalks up 400 NBL games