Old Grandmama’s tale.
Larry Johnson tells Larry Brown Sports why he went with Converse instead of Nike and also chats up the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird Converse commercial that never was:
LBS: Who came up with the [Grandmama] idea in the first place, was it something Converse did, was it a joint effort?
LJ: It was Converse. When I signed with them they had a bunch of young guys working for them full of energy and ideas, and that one took off. It’s a funny story how it started. Coming out of college, I was going to be the number one pick. I was coming out of UNLV which is a big time Nike school and that’s all we ever wore. I couldn’t wait to sign with Nike coming out of college.
And believe it or not, Nike did not sign me. They flat out told me they didn’t think I was going to be a good pro. They went after Billy Owens, Kenny Anderson, and Dikembe Mutumbo as their three main guys. I was the number one pick and they didn’t have faith in my abilities. Converse came to me after that saying ‘we love you, we have a great idea for a commercial.’ And they pitched me a great idea.
They said I would be on a gurney like I was being operated on, and they would have Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the doctors. They would do a mock operation, and when they’re finished they’d say ‘we have the perfect basketball player’ and they were going to argue over his name with Bird saying “Larry” and Magic saying “Johnson.” I signed on the dotted line, I bought my mom a house, and they came back four months later saying they were going to shoot another commercial with me in a dress and I’m like ‘what happened to Larry and Magic?’ Eventually they told me one of the guys didn’t want to do it — they didn’t say who.
Read the full interview at Larry Brown Sports.