Johnson a slam-dunk talent


2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmWould you pass on a chance to tee it up at Pebble Beach to play in a pick-up basketball game? Anthony Kim did.   

AK took off the belt buckle Friday and laced up the Nike high tops at the NBA’s Celebrity Game in Dallas as part of All-Star weekend. As a kid, he hooped on the playgrounds of Los Angeles and still loves the Lakers to this day.

Kim showed quickness and instincts on the defensive end, executed a solid pick-and-roll, but came up short on a three-pointer and failed to finish on a break. The scouting report calls him a poor man’s Chucky Atkins.  

I’d have loved to see Dustin Johnson in that game, but for now he’s busy running past Kim, Hunter Mahan and J.B. Holmes in the hierarchy of best Americans under the age of 30.
Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson is more than just a power player. (Getty Images)
Johnson’s gait screams athlete; actually, he can dunk a basketball barefoot. His bloodlines jump out, too. Dustin’s grandfather, Art Whisnant, made the University of South Carolina Hall of Fame, a 6’4” small center back when 6’4” guys could play center.

“He was mean,” said Dustin. “And he could jump out of the gym.”

High-flyers open eyes and drop jaws in basketball. Long hitters do the same in golf. That’s why we watch slam dunk and long drive contests. In that respect Johnson is Dominique Wilkins. He absolutely destroys the ball.

But if that’s all they counted, Hank Kuehne and Scott Hend would still be on the PGA Tour.  

“The guy can hit some shots,” said Fred Couples last week at Riviera after naming Johnson as the one young player that’s most impressed him.

Couples hadn’t yet seen quite enough of Johnson to make him a captain’s choice for the Presidents Cup last year, but that likely won’t be an issue for Corey Pavin at the Ryder Cup this October.

Jack Nicklaus, a good high school basketball player in his own right, also understands the kind of freakish talent Johnson possesses.  

YouTube has a clip of Johnson at the Memorial Clinic hosted by Nicklaus. In it, Johnson hammers a drive and Jack, tongue in cheek says, “That one carried only 314 yards.”

Johnson, with his huge hands and size 13 feet on a 6’4” frame, looks at Jack and says in his deadpan southern drawl, “I can hit it pretty far sometimes.”

Jack cracked up.

A year ago it might have been laughable to put Johnson among the Masters favorites.

Not now. Johnson, rim-rattling, big-time dunker with a feathery touch, has our undivided attention.