Diane Johnson, a single mother who raised her son in Little Rock, Arkansas, by working the graveyard shift as a nurse at a psychiatric ward, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma -- a rare form of cancer that affects the plasma cells in bone marrow -- in 2008.
Her cancer had been in remission following several rounds of chemotherapy and a couple stem-cell transplants over the years.
“She’s great, man. She’s cancer free,” Joe Johnson said Saturday. “[We found out] about a year ago. So she’s been great. She’s actually been living here with me in New Jersey. It’s great, man. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
Joe Johnson is grateful for everything his mother has done for him.
“She’s meant a lot,” said Joe Johnson. “Obviously working two or three jobs to support us. It was hard. It was hard, man. But I think that drove me more than anything to be a pretty good basketball player, person and son because I hated to see her work hard.”
“Probably the most gratifying thing to me was when I turned pro and I was established enough to where she didn’t have to work. That was probably the most gratifying thing to me, going to her job and telling her you ain’t got to do this no more.”
Johnson’s father was not around, so Diane’s four brothers combined to serve that role. They all lived together from about the time Johnson was 5 years old to the time he was around 10.
“It was fun to me, always having them around, messing with them,” he said.
The Nets guard fell in love with basketball around the time he was 8 or 9 years old.
The two youngest of Diane’s four brothers both played basketball when they were young.
“They stayed on me a lot, came to all of my games and were the loudest ones in the crowd,” Joe Johnson said of his uncles. “That’s how it was. We had a great time.”
Joe Johnson didn’t realize just how good he was until his sophomore year playing varsity basketball at Little Rock Central High School. He was the tallest guy on the team and played “like point center.”
“We played against the best team in the state and we beat them,” Joe Johnson said. “I had an unbelievable game. That’s when I started realizing, damn man, I’m pretty good. And from that moment it just kinda catapulted from there.”
Joe Johnson will be entering his 14th NBA season in 2014-15 with his mother, now cancer free, right by his side, right where she’s always been.