TheGrio’s 100: Kevin Johnson, playing for keeps in Sacramento

Share The GrioShare The Grio

He’s a former NBA player who was a champion on the basketball court. Now, Kevin Johnson is in a position to champion the people as Mayor of Sacramento.

Johnson, 43, was elected the city’s first African-American mayor in 2008. Like other famous California officials, his path to politics followed success in a different arena.
Johnson played point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns, and became a three-time NBA All-Star, and famously managed a one-handed dunk over a seven-foot-tall opponent along the way.

WATCH JOHNSON TALK WITH DATELINE ABOUT HIS FAITH

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

After retiring from the NBA, Johnson earned a B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley. Later, he graduated from the Harvard Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute.

Meanwhile, the Sacramento native returned to his old neighborhood to serve as CEO of St. HOPE, a non-profit community-development organization he founded in the late `80s. The organization has helped breathe new life into Sacramento’s inner-city communities via public education, economic development, civic engagement and the arts.

Although the organization has not been without it issues. St. HOPE recently fielded highly politicized allegations of mishandling government funds, resulting in a monetary settlement.

Johnson took office as mayor in December 2008, following a tight race that led to a run-off. After emerging victorious, Johnson began charting an ambitious action plan for the city.

He’s hosted gang summits, promoted green business development and sought African-American bone marrow donors. Among Mayor Johnson’s initiatives is Volunteer Sacramento, which aims to make the city a national leader in volunteerism.

Long passionate about educational issues, Johnson has served on numerous boards, including the California Charter Schools Association. He stood side-by-side with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in support of “Race to the Top” education legislation recently passed by California lawmakers.

Indeed, his work with young people and education led to a Point of Light award from then-President George H. W. Bush. Unfortunately his professional record has been marred by personal challenges, including accusations of sexual misconduct with an under-aged girl.

Johnson has also sat down with the current commander in chief and the Obama administration to discuss key regional issues. He’s brainstormed with other municipal leaders nationwide, such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

Johnson is a familiar face on television, and has appeared as a commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. He’s also been featured on Larry King Live, Oprah, and Dateline NBC. Stay tuned as this former pro-athlete turned pol, continues to lead Sacramento.