by Eric Goodman
What’s in a name? Well, the answer to that question depends on who you are talking about. If you happen to be LeBron James then your name means quite a lot to the many different businesses seeking to bank off your image. And perhaps no business realizes the profit potential of such a name than LeBron’s current primary employer, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If you’ve tuned in to the daily sports highlights show of your choice lately you would have noticed that the current Cavaliers squad is utilizing a retro blue and orange “CAVS” jersey that was best remembered as the jersey design that Craig Ehlo was wearing as the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan dropped “The Shot” in Game 5 of the first round of the 1989 NBA Playoffs at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland, OH. However, decades worth of poor play can easily be forgotten if you simply replace “Ehlo #3” with “James #23” on the back of that jersey.
According to Mitchell & Ness, the Philadelphia sporting goods company that has become the preeminent manufacture of all authentic throwback jerseys and apparel reproductions for the four major sports, there has been a recent shift in the buying trends of retro jerseys by their customers.
“About five years ago, when throwback jerseys were more of a fashion statement than anything else, our customers weren’t too concerned about who was the name of the player on the back of their favorite jersey design,” said Lynn Bloom, a representative for the family-owned company. “But now we are noticing fans coming in looking to honor their favorite specific players as opposed to just buying a jersey because they like the cool colors or logos.”
According to NBA.com, James had the third highest selling jersey for the 2008-09 season. During that season, the Cavs brought back a Reebok manufactured wine and gold colored jersey that they first wore when they debuted as an NBA franchise. Additionally, the team incorporated a “Fan Favorite” jersey which utilized the same design as the inaugural uniform but was depicted in royal blue, yellow and burgundy colors. Considering that Cleveland already had three current uniforms (white home, burgundy road and navy blue alternate); the two additional retro uniforms brought the total number of different combinations up to a whopping five. The Cavaliers are using the same amount of uniforms for this season as well.
For a team that hasn’t won a championship since entering the NBA in 1970 and not reaching much success of note in those 40 years, it makes one wonder why they would bring back uniform designs from a history of mediocre teams. But the answer is actually quite simple: It’s all in the name.