Vincent Jerome Johnson, the fifth richest NBA player in history, also known as “The Microwave,” was featured on Finurah, where the black personal finance website broke down how a retired two-time Detroit Pistons champion who made $5 million playing in the league as a point guard is now worth more than half a billion.
Johnson, according to Finurah and Blavity, earned between $5 and $6 million playing for the Pistons, winning two championships in 1989 and 1990, and playing a total of 13 years in the NBA for the Seattle Sonics, Pistons, and San Antonio Spurs.
However, it was his investment in blue-collar jobs in Detroit that paved the way.
In 1996, Johnson prioritized jobs and economic stability for the people of Detroit. He created Piston Automotive, a company under the umbrella of his Piston Group, founded in 1995.
Johnson’s personal wealth has increased by about 70 times as the Piston Group grew from a $50,000 to a $3 billion company. However, the success of the business was primarily due to his skills as a businessman, rather than his celebrity status as an athlete, Finurah reported.
Johnson’s Piston Automotive understood the value of being a supplier to automotive companies such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors, and Detroit saw some positive developments during the 1990s, as the city’s downtown area began to revitalize and new businesses and residents began to move in. The city also made progress in improving its schools and public services.
One of his most significant collaborations occurred when the former NBA player connected with Harold Kutner, the VP of Global Purchasing at General Motors.
Johnson learned that Kutner was looking to partner with local businesses in Detroit that aimed to create employment and opportunities for the city.
General Motors and other stakeholders made a deliberate effort to reduce the unemployment rate, which had decreased from 5.3 percent over the past few years. Johnson contacted Kutner and urged him to switch from packaging to auto supplies, which had a significant impact.
General Motors liked Johnson so much that the company did more than just award him a contract, it sent a consultant to help train Priston Automotive and the former NBA player to be leaders.
The company achieved its first $1 million in gross revenue by the end of 1996, and less than 15 years later, it had reached an impressive $326 million. By 2015, the company had surpassed the billion-dollar mark. By 2021, the Piston Group had reached $2.9 billion in annual revenue.
Due to the group’s success, Johnson is now considered one of the wealthiest basketball players in NBA history, behind only Junior Bridgeman, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan.
The Piston Group is also the umbrella company for Irvin Products, Detroit Thermal Systems, and A.Lava, which employ 11,000 people nationwide.