Sneaker Giant Launches Licensed Black Fives Product Line!

(Greenwich, CT – October 14, 2006) Black Fives, Inc., which researches, preserves, teaches, and promotes the early history of African Americans in basketball, has granted a multi-year trademark license to Nike, Inc., the world’s leading supplier of athletic merchandise, for it to launch a new product line celebrating the pioneering accomplishments and contributions of the many all-black basketball teams that played from the early 1900s through the integration of the sport in the late 1940s, a period known as the Black Fives Era.

Nike "Rens" Legend

Nike "Rens" Air Force 1Nike "Alpha" Air Force 3Nike "Alpha" Dunk

The Legacy of Inspiration Collection by Nike, which utilizes the BLACK FIVES assortment of vintage-era trademarked and copyrighted team names, logos, uniform identities, and related intellectual property, includes premium retro sneakers, apparel, and accessories and will hit stores nationwide on October 15, 2006.

Sneaker aficionados will appreciate the extremely popular Air Force 1, Dunk, Vandal, Air Force II, Air Force III, Blazer, and Legend styles included in the collection. The collection features unique designs representing the New York Renaissance (“Rens”), Alpha Physical Culture Club, and Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn. Nike will unveil additional team footwear and apparel in 2007.

Suggested retail prices for the collection are from $25 to $139 for caps, tee shirts, “rugby” shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, jackets, and footwear (ten shoe styles total in 2006), which will be available through Nike’s foremost retail partners as well as Niketown,, and

Footaction will feature head-to-toe assortments and extensive in-store merchandising at its Seventh Avenue flagship store in Manhattan and its key locations nationwide. Other highly visible stores carrying the collection include Dr. Jay’s and the NBA Store in New York City, Downtown Locker Room in Washington, DC, Urban Legends and Mens Land in Los Angeles, and Sneaker Villa in Philadelphia.

Exclusive sneaker boutiques carrying the line include the Alife Rivington Club and Nort 235 in Manhattan, Undefeated in Los Angeles, and True in San Francisco.

The line was created in conjunction with Black Fives, Inc. and its founder, historian Claude Johnson, to pay homage to the perseverance, resilience, passion, and innovation of the players and teams that paved the way for not just some but all basketball players of today.

Innovations pioneered by African American teams during this period, like high-speed motion offenses, double- and triple-headers, and combining basketball with music and dancing to create meaningful social events, are a routine part of today’s game atmosphere.

Nike began discussions with Black Fives to develop the collection more than two years ago. “To capture the essence of the Black Fives Era and translate it into a modern day style, we studied every detail,” said Keith Houlemard, a Nike executive.

Nike Air Force 1 detail 1

Nike "Air Force 1 detail 2

Using original team emblems, colors, and imagery, the program brings many of the little known facts of this unique genre to life. “We researched newspapers, photographs, artifacts, ephemera, and an extensive archive of related materials,” Houlemard says. For example, Nike matched the quilted texture of vintage basketball kneepads worn by the Rens and other teams in the inner lining of some sneaker styles.

That’s not all that went into creating the collection. “On a personal level, as a basketball fan and in terms of the richness of African American culture and community, this was a heartfelt effort,” says Houlemard.

“We are proud to be in this partnership,” adds Nike spokesperson Marlice Johnson. “The Legacy of Inspiration Collection is our way of exposing these inspirational stories.”

“Nike’s deep embrace of this history speaks infinitely about who they are,” says Johnson, whose own mission is to teach and inspire others. “The Black Fives Era is rich with metaphorical lessons that still apply today,” he says.

A portion of Nike’s proceeds from the sale of the merchandise will go to the Black Fives Foundation, a new charitable organization that uses those lessons to encourage academic achievement and continual personal growth among children and young adults via scholarships, awards, recognition, and research grants. “Nike’s involvement helps validate the genre and shines an enormous light that will create countless opportunities for education and inspiration,” says Johnson, who is developing additional licenses and initiatives, including a book, film documentary, traveling exhibit, and seminars to help support the foundation’s mission.

“Plus, this line is HOT,” he adds. “Have you seen it?!”

John Isaacs

John Isaacs.

The license includes appearances by 91-year-old John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs, a star player from the Black Fives Era. Isaacs, a 6’-1”, 190 lb. guard, led his Textile High School (now Hughes H. S.) basketball team to the 1935 New York City High School Basketball championship title, receiving All-City honors before jumping directly into professional basketball. He subsequently won two World Pro Basketball Championships, with the New York Rens (1939) and Washington Bears (1943), and was a 2006 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Finalist. The positive effects of this venture do not stop merely at Nike’s acknowledgement of pioneering black basketball teams from the distant past. Converse, Inc. (, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike, will also participate extensively in the licensing program.

The famous athletic shoe company is already developing initiatives and merchandise that will help celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2008. Converse outfitted many of the teams of the Black Fives Era with its pioneering basketball footwear beginning in the early 1920s when company ambassador Chuck Taylor provided custom-made rubber-soled sneakers to the legendary Harlem Rens, a team that was eventually enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nike will unveil its Legacy of Inspiration Collection at a launch party in New York City on October 15, 2006. The event, at the elegant Hammerstein Ballroom in the shadow of Madison Square Garden , will feature celebrities, athletes, and musical talent, with former NBA player and sports announcer Kenny “The Jet” Smith as master of ceremonies.


Black Fives, Inc., based in Greenwich , Connecticut , researches, preserves, teaches, and promotes the early history of African American participation in basketball. The BLACK FIVES brand is an authentic collection of trademarked and copyrighted team names, logos, designs, publicity rights, photograph usage rights, and related intellectual property encompassing the many all-black teams that played during the Black Fives Era, prior to racial integration in pro basketball. Please visit for more information .

About NIKE, Inc.

NIKE, Inc., based in Beaverton , Oregon is the world’s leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly-owned Nike subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic footwear, apparel and accessories; Bauer NIKE Hockey Inc., a leading designer and distributor of hockey equipment; Cole Haan, a leading designer and marketer of luxury shoes, handbags, accessories and coats; Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes action sports and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories and Exeter Brands Group LLC, which designs and markets athletic footwear and apparel for the value retail channel. Please go to for more information.