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“Grandmama took the country by storm” — when fans waited outside in a snowstorm for Larry Johnson's autograph

Larry Johnson's "Grandmama" persona literally took the country by storm.
Larry Johnson as Grandmama

Larry Johnson a.k.a. Grandmama

If you’re an old-school NBA fan who loves intensity and showmanship, then you must have been hyped by two-time All-Star Larry Johnson in the 90s. And more likely, you also went crazy over his famous “Grandmama” commercials.

The Grandmama effect

As we all remember, Johnson was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1992 and immediately hit his stride in his rookie season in the NBA. LJ picked up where he left off in UNLV, posting 19.2 points and 11 rebounds per game in his maiden season with the Hornets and copped the rightful Rookie of the Year award that year. Even more worth noting, Johnson wasn’t only talented and athletic but also electrifying and charismatic.

It didn’t take long for renowned sports apparel company Converse to notice it. Hence, Johnson’s alternate persona, “Grandmama,” was created.

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As a player, Johnson was already a fan favorite. But little did everybody know, he was also an effective model, especially as “Grandmama.” Former longtime Hornets broadcaster Steve Martin once recounted how Johnson’s Grandmama persona “took the country by storm.” And by that, Martin meant literally by storm.

“He jumped in all four feet and made it what it was,” Martin told NBA.com of Grandmama in 2017. “He bought into what Converse wanted to do and it exceeded beyond anybody’s imagination…One night, we flew into Cleveland. We got there at 11 p.m., got off the plane, and got to the hotel. It’s 2 a.m. and there’s a crowd of at least 40 or 50 people lined up outside the hotel in a snowstorm [waiting] to get an autograph from Larry. I got up the next morning at 8 a.m., went down to the restaurant to eat and those people were still there.

Larry loved it

In our recent interview with Johnson, the man himself shared his honest take on the legacy of “Grandmama.” According to LJ, he always bugged Converse to do a commercial emphasizing Larry Johnson, the NBA star, and the company eventually gave in. However, even he acknowledged that Grandmama’s impact on the fans was undeniable.

We had fun with it. I had fun with it,” Johnson said. “My mom loved it, but I was always pitching Converse to do a Larry Johnson commercial. And I think we did one or two with just me, without Grandmama, and they did that just to make me happy. But Grandmama was something we did, and it took off, and the people loved it, and we had success with it.

Whether it’s Larry or Grandmama, one thing we are sure of is that it was classic, and we loved it.

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