Ryan Vesler started HOMAGE back in 2007. His vision was to use t-shirts to help customers reconnect with memories or relationships from their past.
HOMAGE is now officially working with the NBA. What started as a business grown out of Vesler’s parents’ basement has grown into a company that even LeBron James has supported. We caught up with Vesler to talk about the past, present and future of HOMAGE.
SLAM: When did you officially link up with the NBA and become a licensee?
Ryan Vesler: We became an official NBA licensee in the spring of 2016, right before the Cavs went on their championship run. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
SLAM: Where were you when you saw LeBron in your “Ultimate Warrior” shirt and what’s the back story with that?
RV: I was in California visiting some friends when, all of a sudden, I received about a dozen text messages that LeBron had just stepped off the plane wearing our “Ultimate Warrior” shirt. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. How did he get the shirt?! We still don’t really know for sure.
What LeBron has done for Akron and Cleveland, for the game of basketball… I could go on and on. It’s an honor to have a connection with him, and we’re forever indebted to LeBron for weaving our shirt into basketball history. As a means of paying “homage” and giving back, we’ve partnered with the LeBron James Family Foundation to support its incredible work in the community.
SLAM: You have a pretty good relationship with JR Smith. How did you connect with him?
RV: Back in late summer, early fall of 2018, JR came to one of our Cleveland stores and loaded up on sweats, which was awesome. Then, a little while later, he randomly arrived at a game dressed head to toe in an HOMAGE sweatsuit — it was totally unexpected and awesome. But the story doesn’t stop there…
One of our store managers, Dan Dover, decided to mimic JR’s look for Halloween. He nailed it! And because JR has a great sense of humor, he reposted the picture of our manager on social media.
SLAM: You’ve come a long way now that Bron is wearing your gear. What do you remember about your company’s beginnings?
RV: I still feel like we’re beginning. What’s wild is that, even though it’s been almost 12 years since I started, I feel like we are evolving, learning, and adapting each and every day. As an entrepreneur, you’re never fully satisfied… you’re always pushing yourself to be better and better.
As far as early memories, I remember t-shirt inventory “taking over” my parents’ house. I started in the basement, then expanded to the living room until my parents eventually kicked me out —they wanted their house back! We’ve been hard at work growing our national NBA business, with more freshness and storytelling. We want to apply this same hustle to other leagues and entities, including Major League Baseball and WWE.