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CHICAGO (AP) _ Chicago Bulls T-shirts, hats and other paraphernalia are enjoying a booming business - even in enemy territory.
The three-time NBA champion Bulls’ souvenirs are the top sellers among NBA licensed products, league spokeswoman Mary Neagoy said.
Last year, NBA-licensed products grossed $1.4 billion. The NBA does not release each team’s percentage of sales.
Neagoy said that the Bulls’ items are faring well even in Charles Barkley territory.
″Phoenix ranks in the top 10,″ Neagoy said Tuesday. ″I think we can expect them to move up.″
To be sold legally, any item that depicts an NBA team must be licensed with the league.
Chicago is the biggest market for it, but Bulls’ merchandise sells well all over the country.
It has even outsold Knick knacks in New York and Celtic stuff in Boston, retailers said Tuesday.
″The Bulls are a very popular team, and they’re winning. That’s the combination you need,″ said Jim Root, manager of Gerry Cosby’s sporting goods store in the lobby of Madison Square Garden, the Knicks’ home court.
The first year the Bulls won the NBA title, in 1991, their merchandise sold far better than the Knicks’, Root said. Now it’s the store’s No. 2 seller.
Shirts depicting Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen are favorites among New York shoppers, and sales of Bulls’ posters also are brisk, Root said. He was expecting a shipment of merchandise heralding the team’s third straight NBA title this week.
Bulls’ merchandise also sells well at the Foot Locker store in Phoenix’s Metrocenter mall.
″When the Bulls and the Suns went to the playoffs, I sold every Bulls item I had in the store,″ manager Curtis Doucette said.
″The Suns outsell them, but I think the Bulls’ stuff is right behind.″
Disappointment in Phoenix over the Suns’ 99-98 loss to Chicago in the championship game Sunday hasn’t dampened the fervor.
″Probably the first 10 people who walked in the store yesterday wanted Bulls’ three-peat stuff,″ Doucette said.
He said he has 120 Bulls’ championship T-shirts on order, ″and we’ll sell every one of them.″
Chicago has a long way to go to top the Celtics’ record eight straight NBA titles, but that doesn’t faze fans in Boston.
″The Bulls are one of my top five sellers,″ said Scott Saklad, manager at Twins Enterprises Inc. in Boston.
″They were my No. 1 by such a margin it was ridiculous, three years ago,″ he said. ″It was outselling Celtics’ stuff.″
Though the pace has slowed, ″Bulls stuff will always sell,″ he said. ″Everybody will always buy a winning item.″
Especially in the home state.
″We got three-peat shirts in this morning, and we’re almost out of them already,″ said Brad Hicks, assistant manager with Hibbett Sporting Goods Inc. in Carbondale. ″Anything with the Bulls on it is going out the door.″
Hicks stocks some Suns’ items, but sales are just a trickle compared to Bulls’ merchandise.
And in the hometown?
″We’ve been selling like crazy,″ especially Bulls hats and T-shirts, said Sharon Starcevich, manager of Chicago Sports and Novelty downtown.
What about Suns’ shirts?
″I don’t even have one in the store,″ Starcevich said indignantly. ″Of course not. We are Chicagoans. We’re true to our team. I can’t even imagine it. Not even to make a dollar.″