Joey Johnson recalls family sacrifices in Hall of Fame career

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 11, 2019

‘’Family is very important to me’’


Joey Johnson, who ruled the paint area in international wheelchair basketball for 18 years with the Canadian national team, doesn’t believe he would be in the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame without the support of his family.



‘’Athletes make choices, families make sacrifices,’’ said Johnson, who will be inducted on November 15 in Vancouver.

At age eight, Johnson was diagnosed with a hip disease that would shatter his young heart, and, in his mind, would evaporate his hopes and dreams.

‘’All I could see was my world crashing down and all these doors where my lifepath was taking me were closing,’’ he said. ‘’Little did I know there were many more windows and opportunities for me waiting through adaptive sport.’’

At that point, the Johnson family kicked into high gear to get Joey back on a positive path, and it was through sport. Some of Joey Johnson’s best memories as a kid include his mother accompanying him to school at 6 a.m. to practice his game; his father driving across the country to bring him to tournaments; and his sister travelling to Australia to watch him win his first of three Paralympic gold medals at the 2000 Games.

His older brother Bill Johnson not only played wheelchair basketball with him but eventually got into coaching and was head coach of the Canadian women’s national team from 2009 to 2016. In fact, the brothers were both members of Team Canada at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

‘’When I got the news about the Hall of Fame, I told my wife first then my parents and brother and sister because they’ve been there since the beginning and supported me all the way through. 

‘’Family is very important to me.’’

Johnson’s second family was, of course, the Canadian wheelchair basketball team. Johnson played on the squad during one of its most successful stretches of success in its history. He won three gold medals in five Paralympic Games appearances (2000, 2004, 2012) and a world title in 2006.

‘’To have that many great players come through in the same generation, you can’t really control that, and we were really fortunate,’’ said Johnson, who was Team Canada’s captain from 2003 to 2008. ‘’We had a good balance of offence and defence and we pushed the envelope as far as chair skills go.’’

During his playing career, Johnson was described as one of the best power players in the game.

‘’It means I’m not scared to go in the middle of the paint where all the other big guys are and muck it up a little,’’ he said. ‘’I didn’t shy away and took a few lumps and bruises throughout my career because of the style of game that I played.’’

But what really set Johnson apart was his ability to add an element of finesse to his game. 

‘’For being the biggest guy on Team Canada for many years I had the ability to take play outside the paint as well.’’

Johnson is now communicating his talents to the next generation of Canadian wheelchair basketball players as an assistant coach with the national team; he recently was on the sidelines as Canada earned its place for Tokyo 2020 with a silver medal at the Parapan Am Games in Lima. The coaching position brings back memories of when he started out with Team Canada.

“We were young and hopeful, and we thought we were really good at first,’’ he said. ‘’It took a few tournaments before we finally won one. All that experience pulled us through.’’

For more information about the Canadian Paralympic Hall of Fame:

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