WNBA: Back on the Sparks Veteran Temeka Johnson Recalls Her Lifetime Journey
WASHINGTON – Temeka Johnson is living proof to the notion that great treasures come in small packages.
An affable 5 foot, 3 inch quicksilver guard, Johnson has consistently stood tall in a sport dominated by giants during her brilliant career in which she has carved out a special place in WNBA history as one of the all-time great guards.
Now in her second stint with the Los Angeles Sparks, the 32-year old Johnson recently reflected on her journey from her hometown of New Orleans to LSU, back to Hollywood along with the places in between.
Johnson couldn’t help but to give props to those who believed in her, shielded her from harm and made sure she succeeded.
“I am really a product of it takes a village to raise a child,” Johnson said Tuesday night during an extensive postgame interview following the Mystics 84-80 win over her Sparks at the Verizon Center. “I was fortunate because the neighborhood I grew up in; there were so many people there that supported me.
"There were so many people who believed in me since day one. I am thankful for that and my neighborhood for holding me accountable. I could’ve easily conformed to my environment and the drugs. I thank God because he had a different plan for my life.”
The talented Johnson has succeeded because of her fearless play and selfless attitude. It also helped that she had extra motivation to silence her bleacher critics who deemed she was too small to play professionally.
Darting in-and-out of sneaker squeaking traffic, Johnson made her teammates better everywhere she has played.
“Coming into the league, my goal was to constantly compete and close out all of the people who said I couldn’t do anything,” Johnson said. “I definitely proved them wrong.
"For people to say that I don’t belong. Who are you to say that I don’t belong? You don’t know the work and the time that I’ve put in to improve and prepare.
"I’ve gotten it all my life.
"At the end of the day, it’s the game of basketball. Once a ball is put into your hands, you have to do what you got to do. Size doesn’t matter to me.”
She has an incredible competitive drive and never backs down from a challenge.
There were times during the Mystics game in which she was in the post battling the 6-5 Emma Meesseman and Stefanie Dolson.
As the Sparks (0-5 overall) enter the middle contest of their three-game east coast trip against Connecticut (6-1) Friday night, Johnson is closing in on some nice round numbers.
Her 1,295 career assists are 10th in league history. She needs five to become the 10th woman in league history to drop 1,300 dimes.
Johnson has played in 298 games and recorded 294 steals. Sunday’s game against New York will be her 300th career contest.
While currently leading the WNBA in assists (7.0) and posting consecutive double-doubles against Connecticut (15 points, 10 assists) and Washington (17 & 10) is nice, Johnson’s biggest contributions have occurred away from the bright lights of her basketball sanctuary.
She has done her best work in the community.
“As much as I love the game of basketball, it doesn’t give you the same sense of pride in helping somebody,” Johnson said. “My whole foundation has been about giving back to underprivileged kids and the community.
"I want to share my story and let everybody know I am from the same places and areas. If you cut me, we bleed the same color.
"It’s possible that things can be done and you don’t have to conform to your environment. There are other ways out. Surround yourself with people who believe in you just as much as you believe in yourself. ”
A beacon of optimism, Johnson founded and runs the charitable organization, Heaven Open People’s Eyes (HOPE), which provides inspiration to youth, families, and communities to help them to lead a healthier lifestyle.
The main objectives for her Foundation are to make an impact in every community that she adopts, to strongly express the importance of education and support for at-risk schools.
She’s also an author of the children’s book series, Meek Moments, with its first title, “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions”, published in August 2010. In addition, Johnson initiated the Jewel Johnson Education Scholarship for those looking to pursue a career in education.
“Hope can come in many shapes and sizes,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to be tangible things. You can be an ear for somebody. You can give them a hug. Having hope keeps the light bright.
"I am happy to be that. It brings me joy to see somebody smile just by being able to do the little things that I do for them. I want to share my story with young kids and give them a sense of hope and something to be proud of.”
Her career has also been one to cherish. She was saluted this past spring as a Southeasten Conference women’s basketball legend.
“I didn’t know if I should be excited that I am a considered a legend so young or does that means I am old,” Johnson said laughing. “In all seriousness, the SEC was a tough conference and we had some great talent come through there. I was honored to be acknowledged like that. It’s a blessing.”
All she did at LSU was set the school and SEC record for career assists. Johnson played a key role as the Lady Tigers started their run to five consecutive NCAA Final Fours during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
She was the 2005 recipient of the Lieberman Award which is awarded to the nation’s top point guard and named a 2005 All-American First Team selection by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Johnson claimed All-SEC First-Team accolades in 2004 and 2005 along with the 2003 SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
The accolades have continued in the WNBA. She was the 2005 WNBA Rookie of the Year with the Mystics and a member of the Mercury’s 2009 championship team. Johnson is one of four players in league history to have posted a triple-double (13 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists), a feat accomplished last season as a member of the Seattle Storm.
The only thing that has eluded Johnson during her basketball career has been an appearance in the all-star game, which could happen this year.
“I’ve always known that God was the head of my life and he’s kept me,” Johnson said. “He’s allowed me to be on this platform as the little general and do big things for his glory, not even for myself. I am living proof that you can do any and everything you put your mind to. I am thankful to God for giving me the gift and talent to play basketball.”
Johnson has paid it forward by providing opportunities for others. That’s bigger than any victory or accolade Johnson has achieved during her career.
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