Whether you’re rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII this weekend, or just want to see if Justin Timberlake screws up the half-time show again, Mr. Throwback has the vintage sports apparel to give you the appearance of an authentic football fan. The popular East Village store, which boasts more than 92,000 Instagram followers and recently upgraded to a more spacious spot on East 9th Street, is the brainchild of Michael Spitz (aka Mr. Throwback). We spoke to the Long Island native about everything from getting fired by the Knicks to wearing Air Jordans at his wedding. He also gives his (somewhat offensive) Super Bowl pick.
Of course. I don’t tell a lot of people, but I was a fan of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. When I played in the little Jewish basketball league, I would lace up a pair of Jordans, not a pair of Patrick Ewing’s shoes. I wanted to Be Like Mike. That’s what it was in the ‘90s.
Now I’m a Knicks fan. I worked for Knicks in 2004-05 as a statistician, courtside with Walt Frazier and Mike Breen, and just fell in love with them. But it was for on-air, so if you heard Breen, you would be listening to me giving him stats. It was unbelievable sitting curtsied.
I actually wanted to be an NBA referee since I was a little kid, and the guy who taught me how to ref is the statistician for the Knicks. Whenever he went on away games he’d hit me up and say, “Do you want to do a home Knick game?” And I’m like, “Of course.” So, I did about 15 home games until I messed up numerous times and they let me go. But it was the greatest experience of my life.
Tell me about those screw-ups.
When you’re a fan of basketball and you’re sitting courtside, you’re seeing the players literally next to you and you become a watcher instead of a worker. I was like a spectator saying, “Oh my god, I’m sitting courtside. This is ridiculous.” So, I fucked up, but I don’t care. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Do you regret not making it as a referee?
I know a few guys that made the league that are in the NBA right now. It’s bananas, but their lives are wild. They’re travelling everywhere. They barely have families and that’s not something I would want. I like being stable. I hate planes. I’m happy where I’m at right now in my life, selling vintage sports apparel.
So how did you get into the sports apparel business?
Fast forward to 2012. I found myself at a flea market in Brooklyn, and I found some kids that were selling sports apparel. And I went up to them and I said, “Hey, how did you guys start this?” I ended up talking to them and they said, “Why don’t you come back and sell with us tomorrow?” I fell in love with people coming up to the booth and haggling, and just people interested in vintage sports.
What’s your personal collection like?
I collect game-worn NBA jerseys. I have a Patrick Ewing jersey from 1996 signed and authenticated by PSA/DNA, which is the holiest grail of authentication. I wouldn’t sell it. Paid like $3,000 for it. I want to wear stuff, I don’t just like looking at it.
What does your wife think of your collection?
She doesn’t want anything in the house. Most people have button-down shirts and jeans hung up in the closet, and I have game-worn NBA jerseys hung up. It’s hard for me to go out with normal people, because I don’t wear normal clothes. She’ll be like, “Mike, we’re going to meet my parents for dinner tonight, please don’t wear Mr. Throwback outfits.” So, I’ll put on fake jeans – I call them jeggings – and they’re literally sweatpants that looks like jeans. I’m allowed to wear sneakers, which is nice. At my wedding, I wore Jordan sneakers.
At the altar, we wore dress shoes and I was miserable the whole time, because you’re up there nervous for what feels like an eternity, but it’s really 10-15 minutes. Then we changed into customized Jordans. Instead of the Jumpman symbol, her shoes had a woman in a dress holding a bouquet of flowers. Mine had a guy in a tuxedo with a ring. So, we walked into the party to the Space Jam theme song, “Everybody get up, it’s time to jam now. We got a real thing going now…” It was fucking awesome. It was like three years ago already, and I wish we could do it again.
And finally, who are you picking for the Super Bowl?
It sucks because as a Giants fan you hate the Eagles. But as a New Yorker you hate everything Boston. So, who do I root for? The Giants already beat the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, in 2007 and 2011, so whatever. But the Eagles? Fuck them. I have a lot of friends that are Eagles fans so I don’t want to hear them.