It was only fitting that import Ivan Johnson would be one of those to lead the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to a championship not using cheap shots, body blows, or extra-curriculars, but by sticking to the game plan and playing good, solid, championship-caliber basketball.
His mindset was simple at the start of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals series against Rain or Shine. He was determined to win a crown and no matter now heated and tightly-contested the series panned out, he knew the only way to capture it was play his heart out and leave everything on the floor.
Johnson was without a doubt an integral part of the team’s success even if the Tropang Texters already boosted a roster with Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo — arguably two of the best players in the league today regardless of position.
But the synergy of the troika was the critical tool in winning the crown as it was more than a mere sum of its parts. Johnson led the league in win shares per 48 (WS/48) during the eliminations with 0.381. In the playoffs, Johnson, Castro, and de Ocampo were in the top 4 of the category with only Rain or Shine’s Wayne Chism as the other player.
It was simple math in the end. A three-headed monster was difficult to stop, but for it to work, all three must provide damage.
Johnson’s effective field goal percentage was 55.87 percent in wins, and only 46.61 in losses. In the playoffs, the import did a significant part in taking charge while managing to be unselfish. His usage rate dropped from 38.4 percent in the elimination round to 30.7 throughout the playoffs while his assist rate rose from 10 to 14.8.
In the finals series, it was evident the Tropang Texters would have a better chance of winning games if Johnson plays well. His 4-point performance on 2-for-9 field goal shooting during Game 6 was the least the franchise asked for, but Johnson, true to his promise of delivering a crown, went against all odds in the title clincher. [READ: Not tonight: Locals respond to challenge in Rain or Shine win to force Game 7]
Johnson had 30 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block. More than the digits, the Tropang Texters reinforcement did everything, quite literally, to hand his team the trophy. He was a menace on both ends, and sacrificed his body for 50-50 balls, crashing on the floor multiple times knowing every possession matters in a crucial affair.
He was patient, read the defense well, and did not force too many shots. Even for the Elasto Painters, there was not a significant dosage of extra-curriculars in Game 7 as both sides simply played to win.
In the end, Johnson, who always carries a tiger look on his face, was smiling, carrying his two little boys while soaking in the glory of success. In what was probably the biggest game of his career for any basketball league’s he’s been with, Johnson played like a champion.
Inside the dugout after the match, Johnson was gamely answering questions from TV5’s Sel Guevara, and was dancing the dougie while photographers snapped a few shots. Those scenes wouldn’t come into reality if Johnson lost his cool along the way.
After a long, tiring trip, Johnson finally left the arena with his wife and two kids, but the bad boy persona or aura was nowhere there anymore.
He was simply regarded as a champion — a distinction he deserves after all the adversity during the long, rocky road, whether on or off the court.