You can’t have an adequate conversation about sneaker culture without talking about the global impact of Michael Jordan and his line of signature shoes, as evidenced by the film “Air,” chronicling the inception of the Jordan sneaker era.
With so much popularity around Nike and their relationship with Jordan, would you believe there was a time during the Jordan era when he didn’t have the biggest contract and most popular shoe among athletes?
Welcome NBA legend Larry Johnson to the chat. According to a LinkedIn post, Johnson stated that he was offered a $1 million shoe deal with Converse in 1991.
Johnson entered the league in 1991 as the No. 1 draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets. He had a stand-out rookie season, earning him the 1992 Rookie of the Year award, and in 1993, he signed what was then considered the largest contract in NBA history worth $87 million over seven years.
However, after that historic deal, Johnson suffered a sprained back that would impact the longevity of his career. According to Complex, he was traded to the New York Knicks in 1996, leading the team to the NBA finals during his tenure.
Although his game was altered due to his energy level, Larry Johnson was an active NBA player until 2001. He would average 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists throughout his career.
While his glory days on the court are behind him, the NBA legend has maintained an estimated net worth of $10 million from his on-court earning and off-court deals, Celebrity Net Worth reports.
And despite some of the challenges Johnson faced as a player, his Converse deal is still regarded as one of the most iconic in sports history.
Let’s look at the facts around Larry Johnson’s shoe endorsement that still has people talking.
Complex reports that when Larry Johnson was offered a deal with Converse, the brand sought to reestablish itself as a major brand by signing some of the sport’s top players.
Converse had a long and robust history in basketball dating back to 1917 with the introduction of the “All-Star” model, Sports Illustrated reports. In 1921, the brand would elevate to superstardom with the endorsement from former basketball player Chuck Taylor.
While the rubber-soled shoe was the focus of an era, the brand’s popularity slowly started to wain with the introduction of other popular brands, namely Nike.
So Converse sought to sign high-profile athletes hoping to earn its way back into the sneaker game.
When Johnson was offered a contract from Converse, it was considered the largest shoe deal, and his shoe was wildly popular, Complex reports.
Together, Johnson and Converse launched the Aero Jam Energy Wave with the help of a famous yet quirky commercial, featuring Johnson as an athletic grandma.
Although the shoe had so much popularity, the New York Post reports that Johnson and Converse hit a rift in their relationship after the shoe brand felt the Hornets star acted negatively during the playoffs.
“They were saying. ‘How about the negative publicity you were getting? [My agent George Andrews] didn’t want to tell me they were saying that. I kept saying. ‘How’s the contract going, how’s the contract going?’ He says, ‘Still talking.’ I asked him why it’s taking so long. When he finally told me they said that, I said, ‘Hey, man, leave them alone. Don’t come to them no more,” New York Post reported.
Regardless of all that happened around the shoe deal, Johnson might’ve helped people like the legendary Michael Jordan.
“In 1991, I received the largest shoe deal in history. Michael Jeffrey Jordan was making $500k a year from #nike and #converse was paying me $1 million dollars. I also signed a huge player contract. Mike was never mad. We connected later on the court and he thanked me. He said his shoe deal and contract was up in a few months and he was going to make #nikeshoes and the Bulls pay him a lot more. Jordan was just as good in business as he was on the court,” Johnson wrote on LinkedIn.