FRIDAY APRIL 25, 2014
 
Blog TALKING TO
TORONTO RAPTOR AMIR JOHNSON
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It's hard not to have a favourite thing about NBA star Amir Johnson. Maybe it's the time he had the Raptors logo shaved into his head, or his habit of dressing up like a zombie and parading through the streets. Or maybe it's just an especially awesome dunk you saw him throw down. Any way you look at it, he's hugely entertaining. TORO talked to Johnson about his love for Toronto, his taste in horror movies, and the tale of the first time he posterized an opponent.

The Wall Street Journal ran a great article this week about the grooming secrets of NBA players, in which Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan acknowledged wearing women's deodorant for games. What kind of grooming products do you use, and would you admit to using women's deodorant?

I usually let the females take care of that stuff for me. Just any man's soap, Dove, stuff that smells good, stays strong, high endurance, all the stuff athletes pretty much use. One of my female friends might go to Bath & Body Works for me and get some of that exclusive stuff but other than that, nothing special. I can't use women's deodorant, man, I sweat too hard. That's only going to last like two seconds. I need something a little bit stronger.

You made headlines, and a bunch of new fans, by buying up hundreds of copies of Drake's new album and handing them out in downtown Toronto earlier this year. Who's another musical artist you think deserves to be listened to?

I listen to a lot of Kendrick Lamar. He's already out there, people are starting to notice him already from his last album, but he's a really talented artist. He's going to be a little bit bigger when he drops his next album. I like his rawness, his flow. He talks about real stuff, stuff that we go through. Drake, me and him, we're all around the same age so we can relate to a lot of stuff.

If you wanted to impress someone by taking them out for a night on the town in Toronto, what's on your itinerary?

I would probably show them around the CN Tower first. Every tourist wants to know, 'What's the big tower?' Now I would take them to the Ripley's Aquarium, which is awesome. I think that would be great for somebody who has just come into town. I'd take them to a good restaurant, probably Jacobs Steakhouse, just off King West. It's an awesome steak restaurant. They have great salad, they toss it right in front of you. I need some good steak every now and then. I eat a lot of chicken, a lot of healthy stuff, but sometimes I need something a little solid to hold me over. I get the ribeye, well done.

AmirJohnson_hair.jpgYou've said in the past that Toronto has a "humbleness" that really won you over when you were first traded here. Why was that such an attractive quality for you?

That's me all the way, that's my personality. When you meet a lot of humble people, you just kind of connect with everything, you just kind of connect with the city. That's how I started loving Toronto. When you can go anywhere and you feel welcomed and you feel comfortable, you're going to like that place. That's the feeling that I got when I came here and that's how I feel about the city.

How do your feelings about Toronto compare to your hometown of Los Angeles?

L.A. is a lot of stuff. It's very Hollywood, very chill. The weather is great. For me, L.A. is just very chill. If you go down to Hollywood, you're definitely going to get some Hollywood bougie people. If you go to the 'hood, you're going to get real, real people. If you go to Beverley Hills, you're going to get that kind of bougie feeling. I usually stay near the beach area, near the marina in Santa Monica. I've got a little condo in the marina. The beach area is very quiet, very chill. I get to lay out, work out. I love hanging out on the beach, nothing like it.

You're a two-time participant in Toronto's Zombie Walk, dressing up in costume and parading through downtown Toronto. I know you're a big fan of the TV show The Walking Dead. What's your favourite horror movie of all time?

I love to watch a good scary movie. The one that frightened me as a kid, and I'm probably still kinda iffy on it today, is Dolls, which I saw when I was five or six. That terrified me because my sister had china dolls around the room and I used to think they were always looking at me when I would wake up in the middle of the night, or imagine their heads turning or something like that. That was pretty terrifying for me. You can put Chucky in there, and all that, but the movie Dolls is the one that terrified me. If there's a china doll and it looks kinda iffy, I feel like it's moving or looking at me. Even when I got older I was afraid of dolls. I used to stick them under the couch. I hated my sister's dolls.

You've developed a reputation for incredible toughness, playing through a series of painful ankle injuries last year. Because you're on the court more than sitting out injured, fans don't often get to see you in dress clothes. Which brands or designers are you a fan of when you have to look your best?

I just started getting into the fashion world a little bit last year. I try to get some custom pieces from H. Lorenzo out of L.A. They've got some nice stuff for tall guys. It's almost like a Joakim Noah look, almost like a hippie look, but it fits tailored. I like stuff that fits tailored. Any line out there that can fit my size, I'll roll with. I don't go too far out of the box like those guys like (Russell) Westbrook or D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) with all the fancy stuff. I like a good, clean, tailored look.

When was the first time you ever dunked a basketball?

I actually dunked on somebody. It was on the playground, I was in middle school in California. I think it was grade seven. All the kids were trying to run and dunk the ball, see if they could grab the rim or whatever. I guess the kid must have been talking, saying, 'You can't dunk, yada, yada.' I said something like 'I'll dunk on you.' He was under the basket saying, 'Let's see.' I just ran with my eyes closed and jumped. Somehow I ended up dunking the ball on him and he fell on the ground. The kids on the playground went crazy, they went running. I was the story for like a month after that.

You're going to be the answer to a great trivia question one day because you were the last high school player drafted into the NBA before the ruled were changed to require at least one year of college. You had made a commitment to play at Louisville. Do you ever think about what would have happened if you had played in the NCAA?

You might find that on Jeopardy or Family Feud. I think it's pretty cool. Who would have ever thought I'd be part of a trivia question? I look at it as pretty much nothing, I just think it's a coincidence. I think I would have been an awesome college player. I would have worked hard, for sure. I would have been a top draft pick if I had stayed for a while.

You've become a big traveller, visiting Thailand last summer, where you took part in a tug-of-war with an elephant. Where would you like to go next?

Probably India or something like that, to see the Taj Mahal. I like to see the wonders of the world. I would love to see all of them. In Chile they have the world's largest swimming pool. It's crazy, you've got to look it up. I would like to take a dip in that bad boy.

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