Dave Johnson at work
Dave Johnson at work Credit: Courtesy Dave Johnson

Wizards radio play-by-play broadcaster Dave Johnson had just gotten home from the doctor’s office when he received a call from an unknown number. The 55-year-old Johnson, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, figured an insurance company or doctor was on the other line.

It turned out to be a little better than that. 

The National Sports Media Association (NSMA) called Johnson on Jan. 2 to inform him that he has been named the D.C. sportscaster of the year. The Wizards announced the news today in a press release.

“It was very nice,” Johnson tells City Paper. “It’s always nice when you’re recognized in a good way.”

In addition to being in the 23rd season as the play-by-play voice for the Washington Wizards Radio Network, Johnson has done play-by-play work for D.C. United for the past 24 seasons. He also serves as the morning anchor and sports director at WTOP, where he has worked since 1995, and makes appearances on NBC4.

Johnson’s earliest memories involve broadcasting. He remembers broadcasting games and news stories for his mother, Mary Lue, who spent Johnson’s entire life in a wheel chair. She died at age 43 of complications related to multiple sclerosis when Johnson was 15. 

The award has made him reflect on his journey.

“Thinking about it today, my first fascination with radio was in the back seat of my parents’ car,” Johnson recalls. “Broadcasting was always what I wanted to do. It’s been such an important part of my life and given me so much. I’ve gotten to interact with so many people in so many walks of life.”

Johnson, a Gambrills, Maryland native, began his professional radio career as an 18-year-old freshman at Towson College, when he spent time as the weekend anchor on Z96 in Baltimore. His career has taken him to Annapolis, where he worked as a disc jockey at WNAV, and he’s held jobs as a news anchor and sports broadcaster, living out a professional dream he’s had since he was a kid.

People sometimes ask him how he manages his schedule, which often requires him to wake up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.

“It can be tedious at times, but you get energy when you realize what you’re doing and why you’re doing it,” Johnson says. 

He’s still keeping up his hectic schedule of traveling with the Wizards, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. The drug that he’s on needs to be infused every six months, and as long as the symptoms don’t get worse, Johnson says, the drug is working.

“Right now I’m rock and rolling,” he says from his hotel in Chicago, a day before the Wizards are set to play the Bulls. “It hasn’t stopped my schedule one bit. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing as long as I can do that.”