Sixth man Cam Johnson stays rooted in faith as Suns eye return to NBA Finals

Phoenix Suns wing Cam Johnson turned in the best playoff performance of his career Monday night, then followed it up with a third-place finish in Sixth Man of the Year voting Tuesday. Wednesday night, Johnson contributed nine points, two assists and two rebounds as the Suns took a 2-0 lead in their series with the Dallas Mavericks.

Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

He knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with 17 points in Game 1, the fifth time this postseason Johnson reached double figures in scoring.

The strong postseason for the third-year pro follows a regular season in which he set new career bests in games played (66), scoring average (12.5), field goal percentage (46.0%) and 3-point percentage (42.5%). Johnson returned from a quad injury in time to play in Phoenix’s final six regular-season contests. The Suns’ comfortable cushion at the top of the Western Conference allowed him to take his time getting up to speed before the playoffs started.

“I feel like I’m all the way back,” he said ahead of the team’s first postseason game. “Definitely had to shake some rust off and will continue to do that, but anytime you get to play on the court no matter the outcome, it’s a great day. It’s something I’m very grateful for, just the ability to suit up in those six games. You learn to take them less and less for granted as you go along … nothing is promised.”

The Suns are now just six wins away from a return to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks last summer. Johnson averaged 8.5 points and shot 43.5% from deep in his Finals debut.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cameron Johnson (@camjohnson23)

Phoenix responded to that heartbreaking defeat by putting together the best season in franchise history, going 64-18 to finish eight games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies, who had the league’s second-best record.

Throughout his basketball career, the former Pittsburgh Panther and North Carolina Tar Heel has leaned on his faith. For example, as part of his pregame routine, Johnson recites Psalm 23 — one of the most famous passages in the Bible — during the national anthem.

“It comes from my grandma,” Johnson said at the team’s media day in September. “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.”

The passage, along with his love for Michael Jordan, inspired Johnson to wear No. 23 throughout his career. When he transferred from Pittsburgh to North Carolina, he was forced to make a temporary switch. Johnson considered moving on from the number permanently when he got to the NBA, but ultimately decided it meant too much to him.

“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.”

The 26-year-old also regularly displays his faith on his Instagram account, where Psalm 23 is listed in his bio:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cameron Johnson (@camjohnson23)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Cameron Johnson (@camjohnson23)

Phoenix’s conference semifinals series moves to Dallas for Game 3 at 9:30 p.m. ET Friday. Should the Suns advance to the conference finals, they will face either the No. 2-seeded Grizzlies or No. 3-seeded Golden State Warriors.

Suns’ Cam Johnson wears No. 23 because of Psalm 23, recites it during national anthem
UNC’s Cameron Johnson says ‘isn’t God good’ after being selected 11th in NBA Draft
Faith-driven coach Monty Williams leads Phoenix Suns in playoffs after historic season
MAGAZINE: Phoenix Suns Coach Monty Williams Is The Ace Of Self-Effacing
SS PODCAST: Suns coach Monty Williams on the NBA Finals, coaching, serving others
Tyrese Maxey stays grateful to God as record-setting game powers 76ers in playoffs