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Seattle Firms Pin Hopes On Hoopwear Movie, Print Exposure Fuels Market For Trash-Talking Basketball Togs

Tue., Dec. 12, 1995

When a certain scene unfolds in Whoopi Goldberg’s basketball film, “Eddie,” Eric Goodwin and Mindy Mounger Blakeslee likely will lean forward in their seats, eyes flung open as wide as bay windows.

In this scene, the Seattle SuperSonics’ Gary Payton will be engaged in a seminal game of one-on-one on a well-known playground in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Goodwin is one of Payton’s representatives, and Blakeslee is a business partner, but their eyes won’t be trained on him. They’ll be focused on what he’s wearing.

They hope everybody else’s will be, too.

Payton, see, will sweat and spin and jive in one of those trash-talking T-shirts. His will say, “You Shoulda Stuck with Tetherball,” on the back. On the front and on the matching shorts will be the name of the manufacturer, Shoot The J, a company belonging to Goodwin and Blakeslee.

“The director wanted Gary to stand out,” Goodwin says.

Ryan Drew’s company, Hoopaholics, got a break once. Last summer, in fact. Its hoopwear was featured in both a playground layout and the “Stuff” section of Slam, a basketball magazine written for the ultra-hip.

Not exactly like being featured in a major motion picture.

“But check it out,” Drew says, excitedly flipping the pages of the July 1995 edition of Slam. “We got Mike on the cover.”

That’s Mike, as in Michael Jordan.

And that’s a defender-bagging, tongue-wagging, ego-sagging breakaway slam in hoopwear, a relatively new but volcanic segment of activewear, which otherwise is dominated by the likes of Nike and NBA licensed products.

Hoopaholics and Shoot The J are two strong entries based in Seattle and both were born out of a daydream, but the similarities end there.

Shoot The J is bold and street smart, true to its roots in the Bay Area, from where Goodwin and his clients and minority owners Payton and Jason Kidd hail.

Hoopaholics is more understated and elegant, its genesis a popular Father’s Day, 35-and-older camp that first was embraced by a bunch of doctors, lawyers and businesspeople.

When the Hoopaholics camp was established in 1988, Ryan Drew was just a year out of Blanchet High School and looking forward to his sophomore season at the University of California. By the time Drew left Cal in 1991, he had set the Pac-10 career record for three-point shooting.

While he realized his playing days were over, Drew couldn’t shake the game’s grip.

It’s no wonder that athletics held such an allure. Drew’s uncle, Gene Conley, backed up Bill Russell on three straight NBA championship teams in Boston and picked up a World Series ring with the Milwaukee Braves.

The idea of Hoopaholics came up when Drew and co-owner Larry Winn were brainstorming one day on the deck of Winn’s Lake Washington home.

Winn was wearing a T-shirt from the Hoopaholics camp. They negotiated use of the name in exchange for keeping Hoopaholics’ association with Childhaven, a center for abused and neglected children.

Once he secured the name, Drew wasn’t exactly out on the break with the company. Hoopaholics’ first office was in Drew’s apartment, which was piled from floor to ceiling with boxes. In a corner, there was room for a card table, where Drew worked out T-shirt designs on a laptop computer.

Shoot The J was the brainchild of Goodwin, who in 1992 was contemplating the career of Payton, whom he and his twin brother Aaron represent.

“I was thinking how his shot was going for him, how everybody said how great he’d be if Gary had a jump shot,” Goodwin recalls. “I’d always tell Gary, ‘Just shoot the J. Don’t think about it.’

Shoot The J went from a concept to something tangible when Goodwin was joined with Blakeslee, whose father, Larry Mounger, owns Sun Sportswear and whose business was the Pacific Trail outerwear company. Blakeslee also had production and distribution know-how.

From the start, Goodwin’s trash-talking tees were more subdued than the competition’s.Rounding out the line are baggy mesh shorts, fleece sweatshirts and hats.

“The stuff that was out didn’t reach every basketball player,” Goodwin says. “It was either so totally street slang that suburbia didn’t get it, or so suburbia that guys on the street didn’t want anything to do with it. We wanted to appeal to both.”

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