|Thursday, February 27
Globetrotters: A throwback original
By Darren Rovell
The four major professional sports leagues aren't the only ones cashing in on the popularity of the retro fashion craze. The Harlem Globetrotters have a piece of the action as well.
After a futile seven-year relationship with Reebok, the Globetrotters -- whose look hasn't changed much over the years -- finally hit it big in May 2002 when they signed an apparel deal with urban outfitter, FUBU.
In the past six months, FUBU has sold millions of high-end warm-ups, jerseys and sweaters that come with the Globetrotters logo, and in April the company will release three shoes, including one performance model, tied into the power of the Globetrotter brand.
"It was one of our strongest releases ever," FUBU CEO Daymond John said. "We started making these when the throwback jersey craze was really exploding."
Thanks in part to the Globetrotters' success at retail, the organization is projecting its highest non-gate revenues in North American since the team was founded 76 years ago.
"We begged Nike, adidas and Reebok to take us seriously and they didn't," said former Globetrotter Mannie Jackson, who bought the Globetrotters in 1993 for $5.5 million. "So we went to FUBU and now we're kicking sand in the face of these big guys. If I had any idea that this could be a $100 million business, I would have never been able to buy the team for that price."
Jackson said the Globetrotters and FUBU will soon feature a complete apparel line including the jerseys of former stars like Curly Neal, Meadowlark Lemon, Reece "Goose" Tatum and Wilt Chamberlain.
The hottest item yet to be released might be the Globetrotters red-and-white satin pants. Since rapper Nelly wore them in a recent video, phones have lit up in the Globetrotters' Arizona office inquiring about the debut of the pants, Jackson said.
Antique Globetrotters collectibles are also in vogue. Globetrotters posters featuring Wilt Chamberlain routinely sell for at least $300 and Jackson purchased his Globetrotters pinball machine for $2,500.
Darren Rovell is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.