Team Basketball

Hoop Dreaming

Photo: istock

The sport of basketball may well be at an all-time high in terms of popularity, both throughout the world and here in the U.S., as we enter 2024. At every level of play participation is strong, especially if you ask the players, parents, coaches, association leaders and team dealers, as well as a few referees.  

While Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in the 1891 as something for people to do in order to stay physically active and fit during the winter months, the game has involved into a year-round activity, especially in the U.S. thanks to groups such the AAU and US Amateur Basketball.

And with COVID hopefully in the rear view mirror, the players and fans are back in the gyms.

Dealers Drive To the Rim

Even though there isn’t nearly as much equipment required for basketball as there is for other team sports, one thing team dealers like about the sport is that product that arrives in their stores doesn’t sit on the shelf for too long. Hoopsters love their gear!

At Al’s Sporting Goods in Wilmington, DE, selling basketball is a solid part of the sales portfolio for owner Bob Hart, who points out that COVID’s impact on basketball is now a distant memory.

In fact, the main basketball clients for Al’s Sporting Goods are CYOs and high schools in Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and the southern part of New Jersey. Al’s also sells basketball uniforms and equipment to local Boys Clubs, some local travel leagues that play in the summer and to a number of area colleges and universities.

“Teams are buying uniforms, lots of basketballs, socks, nets and basketball systems,” said Hart. They do sell shoes, but that’s through its retail store.

In south Florida, the basketball business is solid and steady for Bob Webster of Webster’s Sports Equipment & Apparel, based in Coconut Creek, FL.

“I don’t sell athletic footwear or basketballs, but I am busy selling custom uniforms, spirit packs, practice gear, warm-ups, socks, team bags and accessories such as whistles and clip boards,” says Webster.

For basketball teams that need a quick turn-around on a set of custom uniforms, Webster is promising a fast-break delivery – no more than four weeks – that allows a team to make a last-minute decision to order another set of uniforms.

Basketball For Breakfast

Meanwhile, cereal from hometown Kellogg’s is not the only popular sales item in Battle Creek, MI, as basketball uniforms are being purchased on a regular basis by middle school, high school and travel/club teams from Jack Pearl’s Sports Center.

“Our basketball uniform business is pretty steady,” says owner Keith Manning. “High school teams are purchasing new uniforms every three to four years, travel teams are buying uniforms every year, which is good for business, and middle schools are now spending more money on sublimated reversible jerseys.  

“With the middle schools, a sublimated jersey can last as many as 10 years whereas jerseys with screenprinting don’t last as long, especially if they are not washed and cleaned properly,” he adds. “And, with a reversible jersey, players only need to bring one jersey to every game.”

Another strong revenue source for Manning comes from fan gear.

He works with OrderMyGear to set up an electronic store for every sport at every school he works with and at any given time will have at least 30 electronic stores operating.

Hoops At Retail

Meanwhile, at Scheel’s in Coralville, IA, travel teams, high school teams and some area colleges and universities are buying uniforms, basketballs, backpacks, headbands, nets, knee pads, elbow pads, shoes and socks. And, according to Logan Schropp, the sports and game manager at Scheel’s, his retail outlet does sell actual basketball systems, but they are only sold to individual home owners and to parks and recreation departments for installation in public parks.

Of course, Schropp points out the impact on basketball by University of Iowa All-American Caitlyn Clark has been greater on fan interest rather than on participation in basketball.

In Cedar Falls, IA, basketball is a strong core sales category for Iowa Sports Supply. “Basketball has always been solid for us and continues to grow,” says owner Jake Koch.

While Iowa Sports Supply caters to high school teams and travel teams, the growth and expansion of youth basketball teams in Iowa is generating additional income for Koch.

“We have so many youth basketball programs in Iowa and they are expanding,” he says.

He, too, feels the emergence of Clark has certainly given women’s basketball more exposure and awareness in the Hawkeye state, though it has had a minimal impact on basketball-related sales.

The basketball business is a key cog in the business for Turf Sporting Goods in Las Vegas, NV, according to owner Jerry Ocuda. “We are selling more and more sublimated jerseys to basketball teams and not just high school teams, with elementary school, middle school and AAU travel teams also buying sublimated reversible basketball jerseys.”

And because of the expansion of travel basketball, Ocuda says basketball has a more prominent role in his sales portfolio. “After football and baseball, basketball is probably my third biggest sport,” said Ocuda.