by Abe Schwadron | @abe_squad
Last summer, Kevin Durant scored 66 points in a single game at Rucker Park, New York City’s legendary basketball mecca. If and when KD puts on a similar show this year, he’ll do it with a fresh brand’s jersey on his back.
Meet Intrepid: budding sportswear company, official 2012 outfitter of the Entertainers Basketball Classic, and the next logo to know in basketball uniforms.
While you may not be familiar with Intrepid by name, without knowing it, you’ve already seen the brand’s products. Hornets guard Xavier Henry and his high school teammates from Oklahoma City were outfitted by Intrepid during his days as SLAM’s ‘08-09 HS Diary Keeper, despite their school’s AND 1 affiliation. A SLAMonline feature on UBA, a budding underground women’s league, also featured Intrepid uniforms. And as recently as earlier this week, highlights from Los Angeles’ famed Drew League featured The Game’s team, Money Gang—whose green and black, dollar sign-sprinkled jerseys came courtesy of Intrepid.
Gonzaga grad Rob Grabow started the company after realizing his own hoops career had peaked. Grabow spent a semester playing shooting guard professionally in Australia, but it was short-lived.
“I was recruited out of high school by a few community colleges, a few small schools,” says Grabow. “But I was just one of those kids, kind of like “Rudy.” I wanted to be really good, but I never really had the height, never had the natural talent. I just worked my butt off.”
Upon his return to the West Coast, he channeled that drive into building Intrepid, which seeks to provide high-quality uniforms at affordable prices. The company’s scope is nowhere near that of worldwide retailers like adidas and Nike (yet), but it hopes by offering an equivalent product at less than half the price, there is room in the marketplace. Intrepid’s custom uniforms retail for $74 per unit, while bigger competitors’ jerseys sell for $200 or more.
“We started the company with the intent in mind of making the high-quality uniforms that you see on professional and college athletes affordable to all high schools. Every single thing we do day-to-day in our office is geared at keeping our prices low and affordable, especially in this economy,” says Heather Jaccard, Inrepid’s COO. “For us, we have the same price for all of our uniforms and it’s the same quality for a professional team, the guys at Rucker Park, any ABA teams that we do, that quality—the high school coaches, AAU coaches get, for a low, much lower price.”
Rather than pass uniforms through a five-part cycle—from production to wholesale to distributor to retail to reps—Intrepid controls production from start to finish, bringing its product straight from fabrication to the consumer. Cutting out the middleman allows Intrepid to keep costs low and overhead in check, even as an operation still in its infancy. Plus, keeping prices low is just how they do.
Says Grabow, “We’re driven as much by a philosophical approach than we are a monetary one—namely trying to help teams, trying to keep prices low. When your mentality is focused around that, it makes decisions a little easier, and skewed toward keeping the prices low rather than trying to generate crazy revenue.”
Until now, though, former Washington star and current Milwaukee Bucks forward Jon Brockman was the only big-time baller associated with the brand. And while Intrepid says it is “eyeing other athletes this year,” hooking up with the EBC was a boon for the young business.
So how did the small, Seattle-based startup company find a willing partner in the famous Harlem streetball league?
By impressing EBC Founder and CEO Gregory Marius, who offered Grabow and Intrepid the chance to make its pitch for outfitting the entire League. Grabow says the company produced a series of custom mock-ups, shipped them off to Marius, and the rest is history. “I think Greg saw a chance for us to help provide them some urban fashion in a competitive price model and something that would just look great.”
“It was huge for us, because obviously we’ve flown below the radar. Landing something like [EBC] lends an urban credibility to the brand that we hadn’t really had up until now,” says Grabow. “We’ve done high schools, we’ve done a lot of local teams, teams across the US. But it didn’t have that national ‘oomph’ to it that EBC does. [Rucker Park] is obviously a legendary park, a streetball mecca. We are very, very lucky to be able to do that at such a small company, because normally the Nikes, the Reeboks would get in on that, and were a small brand and we were able to do that. It says a lot about what we’re trying to do, I hope.”
When the EBC tips off on June 18, Intrepid’s jerseys will be on display for the whole world—and more importantly, the ‘hood—to see. Judging from recent photo shoots, expect to see a flashy set of uniforms featuring far-out colors from lime green to neon pink. The brash color choices are apt, since Intrepid is busting into a marketplace dominated by massive sneaker and apparel companies and changing the rules, one team at a time.
In Grabow’s mind, all that’s left is getting the proper shine. “We tend to say here at the office that if coaches had perfect information about their choices—if they knew the quality, the price—they would choose us over our competitors hands-down, in almost every instance.”
Sponsoring New York City’s most popular summer basketball destination is a good start.