Like many athletes, the number he wears carries a special significance for Phoenix Suns forward Cam Johnson. The 25-year-old explained during the team’s media day this week the two primary reasons No. 23 has been his go-to number throughout his career. He gravitated to the number in part because of Michael Jordan, but there is a more important reason as well: Psalm 23.
“It comes from my grandma,” Johnson said. “My grandma, she’s a prayer warrior to the fullest extent, and she kind of told my dad to use this Bible verse as a prayer every time you go into a game, into a competition, into an important meeting, whatever it may be. And he instilled that down into me.”
Cameron Johnson was a big Jordan fan growing up but there’s a bigger reason why he decided to wear the number 23 on his back.
— Marco “Thee Alta” Peralta (@TheeAltaPeralta) September 29, 2021
The Psalm is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and you staff, they comfort me.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Johnson has it listed in his Instagram profile, where he regularly references his faith.
View this post on Instagram
“I say [the passage] now during the national anthem,” Johnson said. “I’ve said it during the national anthem since high school. But it’s the reason I wear 23. I was also a huge [Michael] Jordan fan growing up, so 23 is a huge number of significance to me.”
When Johnson transferred from Pittsburgh to North Carolina for his final two years of college eligibility, he was forced to switch from 23 to 13 because of none other than Jordan himself — No. 23 is retired at UNC.
“Somebody had it, they said,” Johnson joked.
Johnson averaged 16.9 points while shooting 45.7 percent from the 3-point line in his final season in Chapel Hill, which led the Minnesota Timberwolves to take him with the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. A draft-night trade immediately sent him from Minnesota to Phoenix.
With No. 23 available again, Johnson had to decide whether he wanted to go back to it or pick a new number as he started his professional career.
“I was wondering, ‘Is it time to change it up?’ I had been away from the number for two years at that point,” he said. “But there is no number that has the tie to me as 23 does because of Psalm 23 and because, you know, my middle name is Jordan. I watched Jordan videos growing up like none other. So, obviously, I had to go back to it.”
About to enter his third season in the NBA, Johnson averaged 9.6 points in 60 appearances and made 11 starts in 2020-2021, as Phoenix finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference. He scored 8.2 points in 21.1 minutes of playing time per game during the team’s playoff run to the NBA Finals, where Phoenix lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.
Following the disappointing end to the season, Johnson took to social media to thank God for His grace and Suns fans for their support.
View this post on Instagram
Looking ahead to this season, the Suns play the first of their four preseason games against the Sacramento Kings on Monday. They open the regular season Oct. 20 when they host the Denver Nuggets.
— UNC’s Cameron Johnson says ‘isn’t God good’ after going 11th overall in NBA Draft
— Coach Monty Williams congratulates Bucks in locker room after losing NBA Finals
— Suns head coach Monty Williams says ‘essence of my coaching is to serve’
— Suns head coach Monty Williams ‘grateful to God’ for relationship with Chris Paul
— Suns enter playoffs behind Christ-following coach Monty Williams
— Coach Monty Williams delivers heartfelt speech after Suns go 8-0 in NBA bubble
— NEW PODCAST: Monty Williams – Phoenix Suns Head Coach