Joe Johnson Returns to NBA after Leaving the Sport in 2018 to Take Care of Terminally Ill Mom

Gaone Pule
Dec 23, 2021
05:15 P.M.
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Basketball player Joe Johnson made the ultimate sacrifice putting his career on hold to care for his ailing mother, who had cancer. Johnson's mom, Diane, had kept her diagnosis a secret from her only child.


NBA star Joe Johnson has returned to the courts after signing a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics as a hardship waiver recently, ending his three-year absence. Talking about his comeback, Joe said:

"I mean, I knew it was a possibility. Basketball is my first love. Like I said, to have this opportunity to come about, I'm blessed and appreciative of the moment."

Basketball star Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks sits at his locker before Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 30, 2010 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Photo: Getty Images



The 40-year-old added he is glad he was given another chance, and "we'll see where it goes from here." Joe has been in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, working out with his 14-year-old son and wondering if he would get another chance at playing an NBA game.

Since being cut at the end of training camp by the Detroit Pistons in 2019, Joe has been out of the league since then. He admitted that he did not have high hopes on the possibility of a return to the sport:

“I wouldn’t say give up, but I didn’t have high hopes.”

Basketball Joe Johnson #55 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 22, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts | Photo: Getty Images


The numerous replacement players coming back into the NBA allowed Joe to get another shot. He shared that he was sitting with his eight-year-old daughter when he got the call from his agent, Jeff Schwartz, from Excel Sports Management.

Schwartz told him to expect a call to join the Celtics, and less than an hour later, he received the said call and was told to catch a flight about three hours later for Boston.



According to Joe, the outcome was a no-brainer stating: "I'm a guy who takes care of his body. I'm pretty in good shape. So, I felt like I was ready to take on that challenge."

The NBA break also allowed Joe to be there for his mother, Diane Johnson, who had been fighting a rare form of cancer since 2008 when she died in February 2019 at age 60.



She wanted to remain in Little Rock during her final days, with her brothers and only child close by. Joe was able to oblige and said being away from the league served its purpose because he could be with his mom.

Diane succumbed to multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells. Joe explained that year that the disease “breaks muscles and bones down."



Diane kept the cancer diagnosis from her son for over a year and waited until she no longer could until the physical effects of the steroid treatments became apparent:

"I didn't want him to know because at the time I was diagnosed, the season just got started. And I knew he was getting ready for that."

When Diane finally dared to break the news, she told Joe she had a blood disorder and broke the news at All-Star weekend in Dallas in 2010.



In October 2014, Joe revealed that she was cancer-free. Her cancer had been in remission following several rounds of chemo and a couple of stem-cell transplants over the years.

Joe shared how much his mother meant to him, who worked two or three jobs to support them, adding those were difficult times for them.

Diane was a single mother who raised her son by working the graveyard shift as a nurse at a psychiatric ward. Joe's dad was not around, and so Diane's four brothers served the father figure role as they all lived together from about the time Joe was five years old to age ten.


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