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Rod Argent, Internet Sports Detective: Dennis Johnson never wore #3 with Suns, so what are these pictures?

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Have Google - Will Travel.

Phoenix Suns v Washington Bullets

In this trying time when we’re all looking for things to keep our minds occupied and take our thoughts away from the Coronavirus pandemic, sometimes those things come from the strangest of places. Before I get to the specific story at hand, here’s a short bit of Suns’ history related to the real story I’ve come to tell.

Younger fans might not even know that Hall of Fame member, 3-time NBA Champion (once with Seattle in 1979 and twice with Boston in 1984 and 1986) and 1979 Finals MVP winner Dennis Johnson played for three seasons in The Valley from 1980 to 1983. The Suns were a pretty good team with DJ playing the point, making the playoffs all three seasons he was in Phoenix, even though they never made it past the semi-finals. Following the 1983 season, DJ was traded to the Boston Celtics for Rick Robey and a couple of 2nd round draft picks. As it turned out, it was a bad trade for the Suns... but that’s another story.

One thing about DJ was that during his entire time with the Suns, he only wore number 24 on his jersey.

At least that’s what the record books say.

Recently photographic evidence surfaced to dispute that.

It all started a few days ago with this tweet directed at our own Bright Side Lord and Master, Dave King:

Dave quickly responded but couldn’t find any evidence that Dennis Johnson had ever worn anything other than 24 for the Suns.

Since I love Suns’ history - and love a good mystery - I decided to do some snooping of my own.

The mystery deepened as theories as to the perplexing number change emerged.

Someone could have Photo-shopped an old image of DJ for some oddly nefarious reason but two? That made little sense but made me even more determined to try and find the truth. I did some additional snooping around and uncovered more.

One thing didn’t fit with that last theory though.

The absence of the knee pads could indicate that the photo of DJ wearing 24 might have been from a separate game with the Bullets. It might not have even been from the same season as the others, let alone the same game. But after even more internet snooping, I finally found the clue that seemed to answer the question of why DJ was wearing number 3.

From the road uniforms, we also know that game was played in Washington. As Dennis Johnson and Maurice Lucas only played together for the Suns during the 1982-83 season, taking a quick look at BBRef.com tells me that game took place on Jan. 29, 1983 and that the Suns unfortunately lost 88-82 with DJ getting an oddly symmetrical triple-8 stat line of 8 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds.

Not too bad for my first case... even if I do say so myself.

Now I just need to find myself another case to keep my mind occupied for a while.