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Larry Johnson
Position(s) Forward
Jersey #(s) 2
Born March 14, 1969 (1969-03-14) (age 40)
Tyler, Texas, USA
Career information
Year(s) 1991–2001
NBA Draft 1991 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1
College Odessa,
UNLV
Professional team(s)
Career stats (NBA)
Points     11,450
Rebound     5,300
Assists     2,298
Career highlights and awards
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
World Championships
Gold 1994 Canada National team

Larry Demetric Johnson (born March 14, 1969 in Tyler, Texas) is a retired American basketball player who spent his professional career with the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks in the NBA. He was listed as a 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) forward.

Contents

NCAA career

Johnson began his collegiate career at Odessa College in 1988-89 and eventually transferred to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) men's program to play under head coach Jerry Tarkanian and his Runnin' Rebels. Alongside future NBA players Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, Johnson faced legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke University Blue Devils, composed of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, and Alaa Abdelnaby, in the 1990 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. UNLV would go on to dominate the contest by a score of 103-73, with Johnson contributing 22 points and 11 rebounds. The Running Rebels set simultaneous NCAA records for both the largest margin of victory and the highest score in a NCAA Championship Game.

In a post-season mired by charges of recruiting violations and misconduct by UNLV, an agreement was reached between the university and the NCAA to allow for the defense of their title for the 1990-91 season that would be followed by a suspension from post-season play the following year.[1] Johnson and the Runnin' Rebels responded with a regular season sweep of opponents (27-0) [2] by an average of 26.7 [3] points a game including a 112-105 victory over the 2nd ranked University of Arkansas Razorbacks.

In the 1991 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, UNLV won the West Regional Tournament only to be upset by eventual champion Duke in the Final Four. Johnson was named twice to the First Team All-America and has won the Big West Conference Player of the Year and tournament MVP in the years 1990 and 1991. He also won the prestigious John R. Wooden Award and was named Naismith College Player of the Year in 1991. To this day, Johnson is ranked as the 12th in career scoring and 7th in rebounding despite playing only 2 seasons for UNLV. He also holds the record for single-season and career field goal percentage. In 2002, Johnson and teammates Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony were inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame along with the 1990-91 UNLV Men's Basketball Team.[2] To date they are the only UNLV team to make back-to-back Final Four appearances.

Charlotte Hornets

Johnson was selected first overall in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Hornets, and would win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award the following year. He also competed in the 1992 Slam-Dunk Championship at the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, finishing second to Phoenix's Cedric Ceballos.

In 1993, Johnson was voted to start in the NBA All Star Game, making him the first Hornet in franchise history to receive the honor and enjoyed his best statistical season after averaging 22.1 points and 10.5 rebounds in 82 games, which earned him All-NBA Second Team honors. Along with Alonzo Mourning, Muggsy Bogues and Rex Chapman, Johnson played with the Hornets at the height of their popularity in the early and mid-1990s. During this time, Johnson, who went by his initialism "LJ" and the nickname "Grandmama" (because of a popular Converse commercial in which he dressed up like an old lady), was featured on the cover of the premiere issue of SLAM Magazine.

In October 1993, Johnson signed what was at the time the most lucrative contract in NBA history: a 12-year, $84 million dollar deal with the Hornets[4] but would miss 31 games after he sprained his back on December 27, 1993 in a game against the Detroit Pistons. During the summer he played for the US national team (aka Dream Team II) in the 1994 FIBA World Championship, winning the gold medal.[5]

Johnson had entered the league as an explosive power forward, averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds, however, after the injury to his back, Johnson developed an all-around game with an improved outside shot. In the 94-95 season, he made 81 3-pointers; nearly 60 more than his first three years combined, and was selected to the 1995 All-Star Game.

Unfortunately, friction between Johnson and Mourning forced the organization to make a change, so the Hornets traded Mourning to the Miami Heat for Glen Rice and Matt Geiger. A year later however, Johnson himself was traded to the Knicks for Anthony Mason and Brad Lohaus.

New York Knicks

Johnson averaged 12.8 points, a career-low, in his first season as a Knick, and although he would never return to his former All-Star form, he became a fan favorite and vocal leader of those Knicks teams that challenged the East during the late 1990s.

Johnson was a key member of the Knicks' 1999 Eastern Conference championship team. During Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he was involved in a critical play where he was hit with a foul by Antonio Davis of the Indiana Pacers. Standing outside the three-point line with 11.9 seconds left, Johnson held the ball, and then began to dribble. He leaned into defender Davis before jumping up. The referee called the foul about a half-second before Johnson released the ball, but it was counted as a continuation shooting foul. The three-point basket and the ensuing free throw gave the Knicks a 92-91 victory. The play was described by Tom Hammond of NBA on NBC: "Johnson... is fouled... and hits!"

During the 1999 NBA Finals, Johnson characterized the Knicks as a band of "rebellious slaves." Bill Walton later called Johnson and his performance "a disgrace to the game of basketball." When Johnson was asked about the play of San Antonio Spurs point guard Avery Johnson in Game 4, Johnson again shifted the topic to slavery. "That's my man, Ave, because we're from the same plantation. We've both got the Johnson name," he said. "You tell Bill Walton that. We're from Massa Johnson's plantation."[6]

On October 10, 2001, Johnson announced his early retirement from basketball due to chronic back problems that had plagued him for several years, after his point production decreased for five straight years.

Post career

In July 2007, Johnson expressed interest in making a comeback with the Knicks in some type of "leadership role".[7] On December 21, 2007, Johnson received a bachelor of arts degree in social science studies from UNLV.[8]

Quotes

"Here's the NBA, full of blacks, great opportunities, they made beautiful strides," he said. "But what's the sense of that ... when I go back to my neighborhood and see the same thing? I'm the only one who came out of my neighborhood. Everybody ended up dead, in jail, on drugs, selling drugs. "So I'm supposed to be honored and happy or whatever by my success. Yes, I am. But I can't deny the fact of what has happened to us over years and years and years and we're still at the bottom of the totem pole."[6]

"We want to win this championship bad so that the NCAA guys will have to stare at the trophy on coach [Jerry Tarkanian's] desk when they ask all those questions during the next investigation." —UNLV's Larry Johnson the night before the 1990 final

Film & Television

1993 saw Larry appear on the sitcom Family Matters as his alter ego "Grandmama" who becomes Steve Urkel's teammate in a basketball tournament.[9] Later that same year he was a guest on the popular The Late Show with David Letterman.[10] 3 years later he appeared as himself in the movies Eddie[11] and Space Jam,[12] in which he was one of the NBA stars who lost their talent alongside Muggsy Bogues, Shawn Bradley, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing.

See also

References

External links

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