UCLA basketball benchwarmers Josiah Johnson and Quinn Hawking didn’t think they’d sub in. It was way, way too early, as 15 minutes remained in the 2003 game against powerhouse Arizona, whose lead ballooned to 20. Rarely rising from the bench, Johnson and Hawking usually shimmied, swayed and stomped for teammates like future NBA players Matt Barnes, Trevor Ariza and Jason Kapono. They discovered the best camera angles in timeout huddles in hopes of appearing on TV after the commercial break.
“They called themselves ‘The S— Crew,'” said Brian Morrison, who played for the Bruins from 2002–05. “They entertained everybody.”
Shortly after entering the Arizona game, Johnson almost got dunked on by future NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. “I remember seeing my life flash before my eyes,” Johnson said. Hawking, too, tried to defend Iguodala. “Please don’t drive to the hoop,” Hawking prayed.
Finding humor at the end of the bench, Johnson, 34, and Hawking, 33, have turned splinters into punchlines, becoming co-creators, executive producers, writers and voice-talents of Comedy Central’s upcoming animated series, “Legends of Chamberlain Heights,” set to premier Sept. 14 after South Park. The show, which features animation by The Simpsons’ Brad Ableson, follows three high-school freshmen, Jamal, Grover and Milk, who are benchwarmers with big dreams.
Believing glory is just a three-pointer away, the trio of misfits try to overcome daily obstacles to live up to the legends they think they are, even if few share their vision.
“At some point in your life, no matter who you are, you’re going to find yourself on the end of the bench. It’s what you do from that point that really defines you and determines the rest of your life,” Johnson said. “We were benchwarmers but we didn’t necessarily feel bad or look down on ourselves. We tried to make ourselves legends however we could.”
Johnson oozed cool. Hawking first spotted him at a UCLA party in the fall of 2001. “Jo had a 40,” said Hawking, whose bleached, spiked-hair and long board and puka-shell necklace made him look more like a skateboarder than a ballplayer. The two became inseparable, partnering for practice drills, roasting each other with below-the-belt jokes, courting cheerleaders and navigating the best Thursday-night parties, since the odds of suiting up the next night were slim.
Hoops ran through their blood. Johnson’s father, Marques, was a five-time NBA All-Star and a member of UCLA’s 1975 championship squad. Johnson’s brother, Kris, helped the Bruins claim a national crown in ’95. Hawking’s father, Bob, coached the Bruins’ all-time leading scorer Don MacLean at Simi Valley High and also coached at Cal State Fullerton. UCLA was a natural choice for both. Well, maybe not for Hawking. “I didn’t really f— with them too much because they wore Reeboks,” Hawking said.
During their UCLA careers, Johnson, a 6′ 8″ forward, averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds from 2001–05 while Hawking, a 6′ 3″ sharpshooter, attempted six total shots, converting a three and a free-throw from 2002-05 (he redshirted his freshman season).
But they puffed their chests out like legends in practice, preparing starters for games on the scout team. The real objective? Humiliate the big-timers, like the time Johnson drained eight treys. “It was the greatest shooting day of my life,” Johnson said. “The starters were getting f—— pissed at me: ‘Stop being a f—— hero.'” (READ FULL STORY HERE).