Two Decades Later, Does Grandmama Still Fly? Larry Johnson Speaks (Video)
Along with commercials like Michael Jordan’s “Be Like Mike” Gatorade campaign and Anfernee Hardaway’s “Lil Penny” series, few basketball ads from the 90s are more iconic than Larry Johnson’s “Grandmama” campaign for Converse.
The series launched during Johnson’s rookie year with the Charlotte Hornets in 1991-92. The spots featured LJ in a dress and grey wig, dunking viciously and vigorously on anyone in the way. Since then, Black men dressed as women for comedic effect has become routine (Madea, Big Momma, many Klumps). It has also become polarizing as some view the practice as demeaning and emasculating.
So, how did Larry Johnson feel about the campaign at the time? He spoke with VICE Sports about just how the campaign came about, in an animated clip recounting the story. As LJ describes, there was a bit of bait and switch involved. He was initially enticed to do a commercial with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. However, once he signed on the dotted line, Converse came back with a different ad campaign in mind. Johnson, reluctantly went through with the commitment and, since then, has no regrets.
Take a look at one of the original ads. Does it stand the test of time?