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|The Ewing Athletics brand will hit New York stores Friday and then roll out nationally after that.|
"Over the years, I've had a lot of people ask me when they'd see me at appearances of when I was coaching, if I was ever bringing the shoes back," Ewing said Tuesday. "I just didn't feel comfortable doing it."
But after meeting Dave Goldberg, a Ewing shoe collector and investor, and talking the idea over with his longtime agent, David Falk, Ewing was convinced it was time.
The brand will hit retail stores in New York on Friday and subsequently roll out in 33 stores nationwide before hitting Europe for the holiday season.
In 1989, as the shoe business heated up thanks mostly due to Air Jordans, Ewing, who was getting paid nearly $1 million a year by adidas, left the brand. For most of the 1988-89 season, at the advice of Falk, he wore an unbranded white shoe to keep people guessing what was next. Toward the end of the season, Ewing, in partnership with Pony founder Roberto Mueller, unveiled the Ewing Athletics brand. By 1990, the company was doing remarkable business, grossing approximately $100 million that year.
The company released more than 20 different shoe models until 1996, when challenges, including the overall sneaker market itself, forced Ewing and his partners to shut down the business.
"We did very well for a while, but it got harder," Ewing said. "Lot of kids started replacing basketball shoes with Timberland sneakers and Nike became more of a force."
Nike is even bigger today, selling 95 percent of the basketball shoes in this country, according to market retail tracking firm SportsOneSource. That's why Ewing says the key is to start small.
"We're not going to mass produce and try to sell as many pairs as we can in the first year," Ewing said. "We know that if we're patient, we'll do well for years to come."
The first shoes that will hit stores are dubbed the "33 Hi Retro." Ewing's name and signature are on the tongue, heel and side and a "33" keychain comes attached to the shoe. The shoes come in a box with an older picture of Ewing in the blue and white of Georgetown, where he led the Hoyas to a national title in 1984.
The shoes will retail for $100.
"I think it's the right price point for what we're trying to do," Ewing said.
He said that he thought LeBron James and Nike were recently unfairly criticized for a shoe that could have a $300 price tag.
"There are $500 Louis Vuitton sneakers," Ewing said. "You can say it's too high or too low, but if people can afford it, there's a market for it."
After being let go as part of Stan Van Gundy's coaching team in Orlando, Ewing is out of a coaching job.
"I still feel like I can be a very good coach one day and want to get back," Ewing said. "But being out of a job allows me to focus on my shoe business again."