In the 80’s and 90’s, he was known not only for his nickname but especially because he won two NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990. Although he was not a starter, Vinnie Johnson was one of the best sixth men in the league and a special feature of this player: He was “crazy”. That’s what his opponents said. The craziness, however, was usually expressed in a positive way, as he could easily be sent by the coach on the court and without problems took the next 5 shots and made them all. In the 1989 season, when the Bad Boys of Detroit won their first title, Johnson came off the bench because the point guard and shooting guard positions were already filled with two brilliant players, namely Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
And when talking about that Pistons team today, names such as Thomas, Dumars, Laimbeer, Salley or Rodman are known, but Vinnie Johnson is not, but he had great respect from his opponents and teammates because Johnson had something special in his game, he could just overrun and shoot the opponent out of the hall alone.
To Reggie Miller, he belongs to the players you never made trash talk with, he describes Vinnie Johnson as follows:
“My rookie year, when I was young and gung ho, we were playing the Pistons in Detroit. That’s when they had the Microwave, Vinnie Johnson. Then Vern [Fleming] came up and said: Don’t talk shit to that mother****er because he’s crazy. When Vern says that, you listen. The Microwave might go off and score 50.”
This attitude was justified because Johnson had some great moments in his career. He was drafted in 1979 as the seventh pick by Seattle but sent in 1981 for Greg Kelser to the Detroit Pistons. This was a mistake that was to be regretted in Seattle for a long time, as Vinnie Johnson performed particularly well in the playoffs for Detroit and he and not Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars or Dennis Rodman led the Pistons to the title in 1990. In the fifth game of the Finals series, he had scored only one point against the Portland Trail Blazers until the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Pistons were almost hopelessly back in the fourth quarter, but Vinnie Johnson scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, seven points in the last two minutes. With the last shot before the siren, and the final score 92-90 for Detroit, which led them to 4-1 in the series over Portland and the NBA title.
Vinnie Johnson once again showed his qualities to run hot on the most important shot of his life and just to be unstoppable. His teammates knew that and Bill Laimbeer said to Johnson before the last shot, “I do not care if you miss 500 in a row, I’m still with you.”
Johnson got the nickname “Microwave” from the big opponent Danny Ainge from Boston Celtics. Ainge noticed that Vinnie, like a microwave oven, is warmed up in just a few minutes. Indeed, after entering the game from the bench, Johnson only took a few minutes to score baskets in series.
This nickname of Ainge really makes sense if you look deeper into things. Vinnie was the 6th player, and if we look at things through kitchen elements and cooking – for main courses are usually used ovens, stoves, gas. These things cook, fry, bake, but when something needs to be done urgently and reliably, there is a microwave. That’s exactly who Vinnie was, reliable and he always finished the job.