NBA PM: Amir Johnson is One of NBA’s Most Creative Minds

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Amir Johnson is One of the NBA’s Most Creative Minds

The tattoos scrawled across Amir Johnson’s 6’9 frame are only a glimpse into the creativity that is constantly churning inside the NBA big man. Johnson has more to share than rebounds and baskets. He has found an outlet to do so on the Internet.

Johnson’s journey into becoming a social media personality began five years ago. He wanted to come up with a way to make his fans laugh and launched the AmirTV YouTube channel in April of 2010. Johnson had read comments on Twitter that people thought he resembled Andre 3000. In response, he created a video dressed as the artist performing the song, “Roses.”

“What would make people smile? What would cheer up people’s day?” Johnson, 28, said. “For myself, just being an athlete, some people look up to you.”

While playing on the Toronto Raptors, Johnson began working with the digital creative company OneMethod to help produce content and expand his social reach. Two years ago, Johnson made his most popular video to date. During the peak of the Harlem Shake dance craze, he got his teammates on board to participate in their own version in the Raptors’ locker room. The video has generated over 1.2 million views.

“He created it,” Jonas Valanciunas said. “He came with a filming crew and he did the whole thing. That was his idea.”

During his six seasons in Toronto, Johnson posted 100 videos to his channel. A driving source of inspiration was to get involved with the Raptors community. He held a “Zombie Walk” through the city, which included a dance to the Michael Jackson hit “Thriller.” Johnson also developed the annual “I Roll with Amir” event to spend time with supporters and promoted it through social media.

These projects allowed Johnson to bond with both teammates and fans in Toronto.

“Amir is a very unique individual,” DeMar DeRozan said. “Every single day was a surprise with him … He loves social networking. Whatever is cool on the Internet, he wants to do it as well. He always brought us together when it came to things like that. He always brought things to life.”

Growing up, Johnson’s mother encouraged her son to do what he loves – basketball and beyond. He took the advice to heart and explored areas that interested him, including learning about computer science and how to make video games.

When it came to movie production, Johnson sought out avenues to educate himself each offseason. He attended the American Black Film Festival in Miami and participated in an acting class led by Bill Duke (which he described as “pretty difficult”). Through these events, he has received advice from people like producer Jeff Friday and director Spike Lee.

“I talked to [Lee] about what it takes,” Johnson said. “YouTube is pretty much blowing up and you can pretty much make a movie on there with your iPhone camera, which I try to do now.”

Johnson has considered what he would create if he’s ever in the director’s chair. He has been inspired by Tim Burton and has a tattoo from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ on his leg. Johnson is interested in remakes, with ‘Love Jones’ and Lee’s hit ‘He Got Game’ at the top of his list. He would like to work with actress Nia Long on a film and has a former teammate in mind to fill the shoes of Ray Allen’s character, Jesus Shuttlesworth, in ‘He Got Game.’

“I would put Lou (Williams) as that part,” Johnson said. “He’s just got swag, that’s my man.”

Luv this guy

A photo posted by @iamamirjohnson on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:25pm PST

Johnson took a hiatus from creating videos this summer as he focused on moving into a new home in Las Vegas and transitioning to life in Boston with the Celtics, with whom he joined in July as a free agent.

During a dinner this season, Jared Sullinger noticed Johnson examining displayed art and its detailing. Johnson’s creative interest has been captured by a new outlet.

“I’ve always loved artwork, but now that I can have stuff on the walls in my home I’m looking at more pieces,” said Johnson, who has designed at least seven of his own tattoos. “I like artwork that has women – I like the shape of the body because women are a body of art. I like any kind of cartoonish stuff. I like skulls.”

Johnson is locked in on basketball as he adjusts to his new team, but the creative wheels are always spinning. He says being open to trying new things has always been in his personality. Johnson is drawn to “whatever is out there that looks like fun,” and loves sharing his passion with others.

“He’s such a good dude and such a competitor at the same time,” DeRozan said. “As soon as he steps out on the court, he lays it all out on the line. When he steps off, he smiles and giggles all day.”