From Iso Joe to Yoga Joe – The Undefeated


As the TD Garden crowd chanted “we want Joe,” new Boston Celtics forward Joe Johnson received a standing ovation when he entered a game Dec. 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers with 1:57 to player.

It was 1 277e NBA contest for Johnson, 40, but it was also his first since the 2018 NBA playoffs. Despite a bundle of nerves inside, Johnson used the breathing methods of his beloved hot yoga to calm himself down and nail him down. a mid-range sweater much to the delight of Celtics loyalists.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, don’t twist it, bro,” Johnson told The Undefeated. “It was a bit too much for me. But in life’s most difficult situations, if you can stay calm and have controlled breathing, you will be fine. So that’s basically what I did. They started chanting my name, I’m like “Oh my God”, and I walk in.

“But at the end of the day, it’s basketball and I’m not trying to put on too much. Go ahead and have fun, enjoy the game, enjoy this moment that you are in, even if it still seems unreal, because at 40 we can be honest my brother it does not happen.

Johnson recently joined dozens of players who signed 10-day contracts as the NBA was hampered by the omicron variant of COVID-19. The only active player older than Johnson is the Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem, who turned 41 in June.

The Celtics drafted Johnson with the 10e overall selection in the 2001 NBA Draft. The seven-time NBA All-Star averaged 16.0 points for the Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets from 2001 to 2018. The 2009-10 All-NBA selection also had five consecutive seasons. with the Hawks where he averaged over 20 points per game, and he has scored over 20,000 points during his career.

Since leaving the NBA in 2018, Johnson has twice won MVP honors in Ice Cube’s Big3 League and also adapted for USA Basketball at the AmeriCup in February.

To Johnson’s surprise, he got a call from his agent Jason Glushon on December 21, as he was celebrating his daughter’s 19th birthday, asking if he would be interested in signing a 10-day contract with the ravaged Celtics. by COVID-19. Johnson said yes and left Atlanta three hours later on the last plane to Boston.

Johnson, who played in one of the two games with Boston, is very grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s still surreal for me at 40,” Johnson said. “I know a lot of things have to do with COVID, but they don’t contact 40-year-old guys, my brother, to come and help any team. I don’t care who you are. …

“They wanted some help from the vets, obviously to help these guys around here, [Jayson] Armadillo, [Jaylen] Brown, [Dennis] Schröder. And it wasn’t like, ‘Alright. Yeah. We’ll play that number of minutes for you. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. So I just tried to stay on these guys’ ears to make them understand that throughout this process you’re going to have some ups and downs.

Before the Celtics called, Johnson had actually focused on starting a hot yoga business with the dream of forming a chain in the South.

Johnson said he was first introduced to hot yoga by athletic trainer Wally Blasé around 2009 while playing for the Hawks. Johnson suffered knee tendonitis and Achilles tendon issues that caused him to miss a road trip with the team. Blasé stayed in Atlanta to help him with his rehab and asked a skeptical Johnson to join him and his wife for a hot yoga session he said would ease his injuries.

“I was like, ‘Man, I’m not going to do hot yoga,’ Johnson said. ‘His wife called me later that day and said,’ Joe, you should come. It’ll help. You’ll love it. ‘ And I went there, bro, and the rest is history. I fell in love with it. It made me feel like basketball. Hot yoga is so hard. Every time i go into this room it humiliates me because no matter how good you are at hot yoga it is always going to be hard.

“But there are also benefits to be gained from it. Prevention of injuries. Weightloss. Every time you do it, it’s a detox. Eliminate bad toxins from your body. I feel like a whole new person every time I go there. So that’s why I’m so addicted.

From that point on, Johnson said he would try to attend hot yoga classes as much as possible. This included finding hot yoga studios when he was on the road with the team he played for. Former Nets assistant general manager Bobby Marks, now an ESPN basketball analyst, recalled how committed Johnson was to yoga during a road trip to Philadelphia during the 2013-14 season.

“I was in the lobby having coffee and here’s Joe walking into the team hotel,” Marks said. “I’m like ‘Wow, this guy just got home from the night before and we have a game that day.’ But I look at him and he’s holding a yoga mat and he’s wet, he wasn’t out to party, but he was getting his job 15 hours before the denunciation.

Johnson said: “It’s going to challenge your mind more than anything with this heat. It’s a 90 minute class. It’s an hour and a half in 105 degree heat with 40 degree humidity. And it’s probably a pinch of oxygen in the room. So imagine how difficult it is. Mentally, you need to talk to each other throughout the class.

Hot yoga continued to be a staple for Johnson’s life after he left the NBA in 2018. And he would love to make it a staple for more blacks as well.

Johnson said he had his own hot yoga studio in his Little Rock, Arkansas home and had rented yoga studios in Atlanta. Earlier this month, he started hosting free hot yoga sessions in Atlanta called “Joe Johnson Private Yoga Classes,” in hopes of getting his friends and yoga enthusiasts to join them. His hope was also to introduce hot yoga to more African Americans. Interested participants should contact Johnson on his Instagram page for free classes taught by yoga instructor Rue Vagues.

“When I go to do yoga, there are never any African Americans in it,” Johnson said. “And the benefits that everyone gets, our people have to be there. That’s another reason I made it to Atlanta, because I have a lot of friends in Atlanta. I was like, “Dude, I can invite some of my friends over, let them experience this. “

“Before trying, they are afraid. So when they get there, they see how hot the room is, and I just tell them, “When you walk into this room, when you take a lot of poses or even bend down to tie up. [your] shoe, you tend to hold your breath. Never hold your breath. You are still breathing. Controlled breathing, four to five seconds in and out of your nose, and in the most stressful situations or conditions because it is stressful in this room. But it’s a good stress, nonetheless. It’s not a bad stress, my brother. This good stress. And is it difficult? Yes, it’s a challenge, but I promise you it’s worth it. ‘ “

Johnson said he is currently working on a business plan to open his first hot yoga studio in Atlanta. The hope is to eventually open a chain of hot yoga studios in Atlanta, Little Rock and other parts of the South. Longer-term dreams include other cities he has performed in, such as New York and Miami. Johnson has said he may not return to the Big3 in 2022 to focus on his hot yoga business.

“The Big3 asked me a few weeks ago if I was going to come back and play,” Johnson said. “And I told them I wasn’t sure because I had other things going. I have dived so deep into hot yoga. Me and my team we have a plan for hot yoga studios to open studios and try to get some of my [African American] people in there.

Joe Johnson of the Boston Celtics leaves the field after a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden on December 22 in Boston.

Omar Rawlings / Getty Images

Johnson said he has received a wave of positive messages from current and former players and coaches since returning to the NBA. Celtics stars Tatum, Brown, Schroder and Marcus Smart greeted him. Johnson enjoyed crossing paths with the Boston media he met in 2001 which still covers the Celtics. He finds it wonderful that he is currently being coached by Ime Udoka, who looked after him during his playing days.

The last day of Johnson’s 10-day contract is Friday. He hopes he can get his daughter and son to a game before his time is up and cherishes everything from games and bus rides to being in the locker room again. And Johnson also says he can use the money he earns from his 10-day contract to help pay for his new hot yoga business.

“It’s gratifying for me,” Johnson said. “I’m grateful because I know and understand that at 40 you have to do something different to have an opportunity like this, to savor the moment. So, if after these 10 days, that’s it, that’s it. But honestly, I don’t even think about it.

“I take it one day at a time. I try to go there and get some exercise and have fun with it.

Marc J. Spears is the NBA Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. Before he could dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to do it in years and his knees still hurt.