Fandom is such a personal subject and we all express it different ways. Some of us sport t-shirts and order season tickets, while others only consider true fans to be covered in body paint at every home game, screaming until their voices are all but lost. We all celebrate it, but few truly revolve their daily lives around their commitment to a sport and truly embrace the title of super fan.
The NBA has it’s own legion of celebrity fans that have become icons courtside. The Knicks have Spike Lee, the Lakers gave Jack Nicklaus, but only does the entire NBA have James F. Goldstein. Mr. Goldstein (better known as Jimmy), is the ultimate super-fan that travels all around the United States, specifically to watch NBA games. Goldstein has enjoyed plenty of press as of late, from a scrapped Nike commercial, to a t-shirt sold in Parisian boutique Colette and now, an upcoming clothing line. But what’s the story behind the stylish man in the leather hats, accompanied with a model on his arm courtside and how did he become the NBA’s consummate fan? Now, with his recent appearance on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, along with an upcoming clothing line (James Goldstein Couture), now is a great time to get to know Mr. Goldstein, and I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Goldstein at his amazing residence during the Los Angeles All-Star game in 2011. Our interview follows below.
You’ve become known as the super fan of the NBA, how did you first become a basketball fan?
I started going to NBA games for the first time when I was about 10 years old, my father took me. When I was 15 years old, I got a non-paying job as the statistician, for the announcer, of what was then the Milwaukee Hawks. I grew up in Milwaukee, and they had a team there which eventually became the Atlanta Hawks. The announcer was the friend of my parents, and he offered me the job as a statistician so I was going to every game, sitting at the table right next to the court. And from that point on I was completely addicted to professional basketball, and it’s just grown from there. At that time the crowds at the game were two or three thousand people, the NBA had a very small following, everyone was into college basketball, and very few people into professional basketball. But for me, there was no question, I loved professional basketball and didn’t want to have anything to do with the college game.
How come you think ended going into real estate instead of working in basketball? Did you just want to just stay a fan?
Well that’s a good question, I certainly had aspirations to own a basketball team for much of my life, as I continued to get into more and more games and more and more involved in the games. But it didn’t occur to me out of college to get a job with a team, because at that time professional basketball hadn’t really taken hold, there weren’t a lot of jobs available the way there are today. The teams only had one coach and one general manager, no assistants, no assistant coaches, no people working in all the different job capacities we now see with a professional basketball team. So when I got out of college it didn’t occur to me to look for a job in the basketball world, I didn’t think there would be anything available. But I did eventually want to own a team, and as it turned out, my financial resources, although they grew significantly over the years, the value of a basketball team grew even more. So I never felt comfortable in terms of being able to buy a team myself, and I didn’t want to get into a partnership with a lot of investors questioning what I was going to do. If I was going to own a team, I wanted it to be my own and not with a lot of partners. So it never happened, but as things turn out, I feel like I have all the advantages of involvement in the NBA that an owner would have, I know everybody now, I know all the owners, coaches, the general managers, the players, I feel like I’m completely part of the NBA, like it’s my family, so I think it’s turned out pretty well.
Do NBA owners or general managers ever ask you for advice?
Sometimes they do. They’re used to be camps where the college players would try out, the general managers would frequently ask my opinion on who I felt was good. Those camps don’t exist anymore except the one in Chicago which I haven’t been going to in recent years. Sometimes general managers call me when they considering trading for a player, and they ask me what they think about that player.
I know you said you became a basketball fan because you had that access when you were ten. Do you think there was something about the game that drew you to it, instead of football or baseball. What about basketball really catches your attention?
Well in my younger years I was following not only the NBA but also Major League Baseball, and the NFL. I was following all three of the sports quite avidly. When I was growing up in Milwaukee going to every home game which meant 80 baseball games a year. I was following the Packers quite closely, even in my college years and just out of college.[...] I was travelling with the Green Bay Packers sitting on their bench during the Lombardi era. So I was pretty much involved with the NFL then with the way that I am with the NBA now.
But at a certain point I came to the realization that I enjoyed the NBA so much more than those other sports. And the NBA almost became a year round occupation for me because I was going to games, I shouldn’t say the NBA but for professional basketball. I was going to games in Europe, I was going to NBA Summer League games, I was following everything that went on with all the teams. And I was getting so much more pleasure out of the NBA than baseball and football. First I dropped out of going to baseball games, and then I dropped out of football as well. I just concentrated all of my sports energy on the NBA. Because, one day for example, the NBA had a preseason game, which meant nothing, and the next day I went to a World Series game which meant everything, and I thought to myself ‘you know what I get more enjoyment out of this meaningless basketball game than I did the World Series game, what am I doing spending all this time following baseball?’ Eventually I just became an NBA fan; I dropped out of the other sports.
Do you follow them at all now?
The other sports? No.