On June 26, 1991, the Charlotte Hornets selected UNLV forward Larry Johnson with the first pick of the NBA Draft. After two dominant seasons with the Running Rebels, including two NCAA Final Four appearances and numerous player of the year awards, Johnson had the highest stock of any ’91 college prospect. He would go on to win the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year honors with 19.2 points and 11 rebounds per game.
In 1993, Johnson signed what was, at the time, the highest-paying NBA contract in history. Shortly thereafter, in a December ’93 game against Detroit, Johnson suffered a sprained back, which would eventually prove to be career-ending for the young star. In ’96, Johnson was traded to the New York Knicks, where he was moderately successful. He’s fondly remembered for a game-stealing four-point play in the ’99 Eastern Confernece Finals, helping to lead New York to the NBA Finals. Still, with back issues plaguing him, LJ was merely a shell of his former self. In 2001, Johnson would formally retire from the NBA, and currently works for the Knicks as a basketball and business operations representative.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Johnson’s NBA run was his endorsement deal with Converse. After Nike’s takeover of the ’90s basketball market, Converse looked to get back into the action by signing one of the biggest names in the game. With a number of signature models such as the Converse Aero Jam, the sneakers were marketed by a character known as Grandmama. Donning drag, Johnson’s Grandmama character was animated, humorous, and slightly absurd, but the marketing caught on and his Converse line was popular in the early ’90s. Although nothing is confirmed, there’s been talk that Converse plans on re-launching the LJ-endorsed Aero Jam in the future. Stick with Sneaker Report for any updates.