LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Kevin Johnson made a smooth transition from basketball to politics - the former NBA star is now mayor of Sacramento.
Charles Barkley has talked about a similar run for public
office, and Johnson couldn't resist a chance to needle his old
Phoenix Suns teammate.
"If Charles Barkley runs for governor of Alabama, lord help
Alabama," Johnson joked Thursday. "Now Alabama has made a lot of progress, and I'd hate to see Alabama take some steps backward."
Johnson spoke for about an hour at the Clinton School of Public
Service. Johnson was elected mayor of Sacramento last November, becoming the first black to hold that office in California's capital.
Johnson has said he'd like Sacramento to become a "destination
place" that isn't overshadowed by nearby San Francisco. He talked for a bit about some of the qualities he believes are important for public officials, such as bipartisanship.
"You need to sit down with people you don't agree with. You
need to listen to them. You need to hear them out," said Johnson, a Democrat. "It's not about Democrats. It's not about Republicans I want people who are going to get results."
Johnson also recalled how much his grandfather's generosity
"Every time somebody was pulled over at the side of the road,
if they ran out of gas, had a flat tire," he said. "My grandfather would always pull over and help them."
Johnson began his talk with a story about being invited to the
White House by then-President Bill Clinton. He later included a few basketball tangents, including an amusing anecdote about trying to guard Michael Jordan. Johnson had just scored and Jordan was demanding the ball at the other end.
"The scariest moment in my life," Johnson said. "And I'm
thinking, 'Oh my God, we're on national TV. What did I do? Why did I score? Why didn't I pass it to Charles?"'
After some laughter from the crowd at his Barkley barbs, Johnson
did show some appreciation for his former teammate.
In fact, he said Barkley was quick to support him in his mayoral
"In all seriousness, Charles is a great guy, and when I decided
to run for mayor, the first two phone calls that I got were Magic
Johnson and Charles Barkley saying, 'What can I do to help?"'
As for this year's playoffs, Johnson was holding out hope that
the Los Angeles Lakers would meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals - a matchup of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
"I'm rooting for the Lakers to play Cleveland, because I want
to see Kobe Bryant and LeBron clash," Johnson said. "I couldn't
care less about either team, I just want to see those two battle