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Troubled Ex-NBA Guard ‘Fast’ Eddie Johnson Dies While Serving Prison Sentence

Former NBA guard “Fast” Eddie Johnson has died of an undisclosed illness while serving a lifetime prison sentence, the Associated Press reports. He was 65.

Johnson’s career was defined by both talent and trouble. The NBA banned the two-time All-Star for life in 1987 as a result of his cocaine addiction.

During his playing days, he was known for speed, shiftiness and an ability to score in traffic. But the tales of his legal troubles were often just as buzzworthy, with Johnson once jumping off a second-story balcony to escape gunfire. It was believed to be a drug dispute.

His legal issues continued after his playing career ended, and in 2008, he was sentenced to life in prison for sex crimes against a minor. He had previously been convicted of a bevy of crimes that included burglary, robbery, shoplifting and assault on a police officer. He was arrested 100 times in all.

Johnson, 6-foot-2, was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the third round as the 49th overall pick of the 1977 draft. He played college ball at Auburn. 

His most productive seasons came while with the Atlanta Hawks from 1977-86, spending part of that time playing for then-coach and current analyst Hubie Brown. Johnson’s backcourt teammate, John Drew, also experienced his share of drug problems.

Johnson averaged 15.6 points and 5.2 assists in his nine seasons with the Hawks. He was selected to the All-Star team in 1981 and 1982. He was then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 10, 1986 for point guard Johnny Davis. Johnson later referred to his time with the Cavs as “a waste.”

After being released by the Cavs at the end of the season, Johnson spent 20 games with the Continental Basketball Association’s Tampa Bay Thrillers of before latching on with the Seattle SuperSonics. Then-Sonics coach Bernie Bickerstaff held a closed-door meeting with players to seek input on signing Johnson, eventually assigning someone to monitor him.

Johnson’s positive tests for cocaine resulted in several suspensions and stint in rehab in 1986. The NBA handed down its ban when he failed to show up for a mandatory counseling session a year later.

Johnson’s younger brother, Frank, was a player and coach in the NBA.

Written by Sam Amico

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  1. Man that is a shame. I did not know he was in prison. He was a heck of a guard in the early 80s. Those Hawk teams were pretty good. (Dan Roundfield, Tree Rollins among others) I actually worked with John Drew at a furniture store in Houston around 2005. It was both sad and cool because he was such a nice dude and I loved watching John Drew with the Hawks. But dang, being a warehouse man in a furniture store after being an all-star caliber player in the NBA? That is tough.

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