There was once an old lady who lived in a shoe. She casually threw down 360 and off-the-wall dunks. She wore a flower dress and glasses. She was the No. 1 pick in the 1991 NBA Draft. She was Grandmama.
Larry Johnson premiered his alter ego in the early 90s for Converse and became a pop culture sensation. You loved seeing Grandmama on TV, but you did not want to play her one-on-one.
Larry Johnson Grandmama
Originally, Johnson was pitched on co-starring in a different commercial along with Converse legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Bird and Johnson would be mad scientists concocting the perfect basketball player with their combined talents and pieces of their respective names: Larry Johnson. Johnson would rise up from a gurney and let the world know of his arrival, figuratively carrying Bird and Johnson’s legacy for the next generation.
The idea was passed on in favor of Grandmama’s more wacky ad campaign intended to freshen up Converse’s image. It’s a good thing they did. The spot with Bird and Johnson would’ve been great but only a one-time thing. Grandmama had the flexibility for a series of ads. The strategy separated the brand from the stiff competition of Michael Jordan and Nike. The Charlotte Hornets rookie donned the dress, glasses, jewelry, wig and soared with Converses on his feet. It was peak 90s.
The character gave the UNLV star opportunities for off the court ventures like Space Jam and Family Matters. In Space Jam, Johnson had his powers stolen by the Monstars along with Muggsy Bogues, Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, and Patrick Ewing.
Larry Johnson in ‘Space Jam’
Grandmama was a fun addition to LJ’s on-court achievements. The power forward brought the NCAA championship to Las Vegas in 1990, is regarded as one of best players in college basketball history, won the 1992 Rookie of the Year Award, made two NBA All-Star teams, won the 1996 Olympics gold medal on the United States national team, and reached the NBA playoffs six times. He came closest to winning an NBA championship in 1999 with the New York Knicks but lost to the San Antonio Spurs. He retired in 2001.
Who would win? Grandmama or Uncle Drew?