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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

'TWO FOR STEW' - Was He The Game's Best Pure Shooter?

 by Harry Cummins

     It's a question with a thousand faces and no answer.  Who was the best pure shooter in basketball history?

     This dispatch will not settle the debate. All I can tell you is the sample size is significant when I declare that Stew Johnson, formerly of Murray State and 12 different addresses in the now departed ABA, had the greatest jump shot these eyes have seen.

     Johnson played in all nine of the ABA's memory-book seasons between 1967 and 1976.  He scored over 10,000 points, made 3 appearances in the league's All-Star Game, and once set an ABA single-game record with 62 points.

     These were resplendent days for the sport.  The ball was red,white and blue and when you shot it, the blur resembled a rainbow arching toward the basket.  Almost every franchise moved and changed names every few years while players resembled troubadours in a lively game of musical chairs.  The 3 point shot was born and players could prove their manhood with sky-walking slam-dunks. The first ever 'dunk contest' was won by the wondrous ABA 'doctor' Julius Erving.

     Thru it all, there was Stew Johnson, the 6'8" kid from Clairton, Pa, setting up sanctuary in the corner and releasing the sweetest shot you will ever see.   A rival coach once described Johnson thusly:  "He was always ready to shoot.  In fact some people thought he had arthritis because his hands were always curled up in front of his chest."  To this day, I still hear those words of the arena public address announcer exclaim... 'Another Two For Stew.'

     Johnson was selected in the 3rd round of the 1966 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, but never played a game in the NBA.  He played for several years after that in Argentina, France and Italy.

     Ironically, one of the 'hottest' shooters in the game, Stew Johnson ended his career in Iceland.

    Where, of course, he won a scoring championship!




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