Larry Johnson Jersey

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Converse needed to freshen up its image and draw attention away from its competitors, new vice president of marketing Joanna Jacobson asked the company’s ad agency to come up with a bold, splashy campaign with Johnson as its centerpiece. The most audacious suggestion from Favat and partner Rich Herstek introduced Converse’s lightweight Aero-Glide basketball shoes by putting a funny twist on a familiar expression.

The script called for Johnson to show viewers the shoes and say, “They’re so light and so fast my Grandmama can whoop you in them.” Johnson would then prove that by morphing into his slam-dunking, elbow-throwing, gold-toothed septuagenarian alter ego.

Not only did Grandmama wear a flower-print dress and gray wig, she also rocked accessories like a pillbox hat, cat-eye glasses and gaudy jewelry. Johnson resembled a churchgoing elderly woman from head-to-toe, except for the black and teal Aero-Glides on his feet.

“It made sense for us to do something like ‘Grandmama’ because the competition at the time was Michael Jordan,” Herstek said. “No human being could beat Michael Jordan, so we had to travel to the land of fantasy instead.”

From the start, Favat feared Converse’s biggest hurdle would be getting Johnson on board with wearing a dress. Without the prized rookie’s approval, the Grandmama campaign would never make the leap from a storyboard to a TV screen.

When Favat began his presentation inside Johnson’s apartment, he opened with another idea that he and Herstek had for a commercial, one that had the rookie co-starring alongside Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Only after completing that pitch did Favat direct Johnson’s attention to a second storyboard still face down on the table.

“Before I get to this next idea, I’ve seen how big and fast you are,” Favat told Johnson. “I’m about flip this board over and if you don’t like it, I’m going to throw it at you and run for the elevator in time to get the hell out of here.”

His warning complete, Favat then turned over the board to reveal a photo of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald posing in a fancy hat, a knee-length dress and vintage glasses. Favat explained that Converse wanted to dress Johnson up like that and have him demolish other NBA players while disguised as an old lady.

“I was ready for him to punch me,” Favat recalled.

Replied Johnson instead, “I’m in. Let’s do this.”

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