Chris Johnson realized a lifelong dream of playing in the NBA by signing a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
His next goal is to parlay his first stint in the league into a lengthy career.
The former Dayton star is expected to report in time for tonight’s home game with the Los Angeles Lakers. In his first season in the NBA Developmental League, the 6-foot-5 wing was averaging 12.6 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 42 percent on 3-pointers for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
“I just want to help them win games and stay as long as I can,” Johnson said. “I’ll do whatever they want me to do: defense, rebounding or knocking down 3-point shots.”
After not producing any NBA players from 1999-2011, UD has had three in the last two years. Brian Roberts, who played four years professionally overseas, is a rookie with the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Wright played last season with the Golden State Warriors and currently is in the D-League, averaging 16.1 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Maine Red Claws.
The Flyers’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder last season, Johnson played for the Philadelphia 76ers summer league team and then had two failed training camp tryouts with the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic.
But despite those setbacks, he reported to his Texas D-League team still confident he’d eventually get a shot at the NBA.
“I thought it was possible. I had chances with two teams in the preseason. I thought it out and figured, ‘Hey, why not? I’ve got a great opportunity ahead of me, so why not give it a chance?’ ” he said. “I kept working hard, kept believing, kept doing the things I knew I was able to do, and they gave me the opportunity.
“It’s a 10-day (contract) right now. But anything can happen. I’m just happy for the opportunity, and I’m going to make the best of it.”