Larry Johnson is known to many as the intimidating basketball player who led a competitive Charlotte Hornets NBA franchise as a forward in the 1990s. Other people may know his name better because of the tough-guy personality that She appeared in notable shoe commercials as the alter ego Grandmama (Johnson dressed in drag as an old woman with exceptional basketball and track and field skills). Finally, a specific niche of now young adults that was the age of the target market when the movie Space Jam (starring Michael Jordan alongside Bugs Bunny) came out in 1996 best associates it with a hodgepodge of NBA players who mysteriously lost their powers. basketball against cartoon aliens. . In addition to Larry Johnson, the motley team of NBA players whose basketball skills were fictitiously attacked by aliens included Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, and Mugsy Bogus.

Long before the movie Spam Jam came out or the grandmother character was selling shoes, Johnson was making his mark on Runnin ‘Rebels at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV), where he led the team to its only national basketball championship. from the NCAA in 1990. Larry Johnson, also commonly known as LJ, did not join UNLV’s Runnin ‘Rebels basketball team right after high school, and instead, the Texas native began his college career at Odessa College. . After playing one season (1988-1989) with junior college in Odessa, Texas, LJ moved to Las Vegas and joined the Runnin ‘Rebels team, where he had an immediate impact.

While playing for coach Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV, Johnson had the advantage of playing with two other future NBA players: Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon (who had the curious nickname “plastic man” as a result of their unique ability to stretch. ). Team Rebels’ 1990 March Madness run to the Final Four ended with a showdown against the high-profile Duke Blue Devils. In a championship game that the media touted as a clash between contrasting playing styles, the Duke University team led by Christian Laettner was described as a fundamentally healthy and disciplined team, while the UNLV team led by Larry Johnson it was labeled as an athletic team that had a more physical appearance. street ball game style. Ultimately, in what was expected to be a competitive game for all ages, the UNLV Rebels took the championship 103-73 in a game in which the Las Vegas team set NCAA records for the most points and the greatest margin of victory in a championship game. Larry Johnson threw 22 points and 11 rebounds in a contest that was largely decided long before the final bell.

Larry Johnson’s team would go undefeated in the regular season the following year recording a 27-0 record before being defeated in the Final Four by the Duke Blue Devils, who would win successive national championships after being dismantled by Runnin ‘Rebels in the first of three consecutive trips to the championship game.

Larry Johnson was named All-American First Team in each of his two seasons at UNLV and even won the coveted Naismith College Player of the Year award after the 1990-1991 season. Interestingly, roughly twenty years later, LJ still ranks 7th in rebounding and 12th in scoring even though he only played two years and his numbers are compared to many star players who posted impressive stats throughout the four years of his eligibility. In recognition of his efforts, UNLV removed his number four jersey.

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