'Uk2k' shirt a surprise winner

jpatton1@herald-leader.comDecember 23, 2009 

It has become the shirt wanted 'round the world.

You know the one — the black "UK2K" shirt that the players wore after the Wildcats' historic 2,000th win Monday night at Rupp Arena.

Carol Behr knows, too.

Kennedy's Book Store, where Behr is manager, had the shirt available online last week. About 100 were pre-ordered, making it a pretty good seller by most standards.

On Monday, it started picking up steam. By game time, it was up to 200. When store staff came in to fill the orders after Monday's big win, 400 more had been ordered, Behr said.

"By morning, we had sold 1,500. We didn't have 1,500," she said.

They only had 500 to start with, so she shot an e-mail to the Nike representative asking, "When can we get more?"

She has 4,000 more coming — some Wednesday, some Thursday. The Nike rep told the store that demand has been 10 times what was expected.

At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, there was a line of 20 people at Kennedy's door. Behr put her head outside and told them that if they were here for that shirt, they were out of luck for now but that there was plenty of other 2,000th win memorabilia. Some stayed and shopped.

Others moved on to other stores — but their luck probably did not improve.

At Kentucky Korner in the Civic Center Shops, the 72 shirts it had on hand sold out within five minutes of the last shot, manager Darrell Tackett said. The chain of seven stores around the state has 18,000 more ordered, though.

"We hope that will last us, and we hope we won't have to reorder," Tackett said.

David Wade, manager at Wildcat Textbooks, said the store had had a few dozen.

"We had more than enough," he said. Or so he thought.

But then fans saw the shirt on TV, on the players, and immediately started ordering it online.

He has 1,000 more coming, but those are pretty much spoken for. "Those are all going to be shipped out," Wade said.

He said he did not think any would be sold in the store on Wednesday.

Check back, but don't get your heart set on a shirt as a stocking stuffer.

"As long as Nike's willing to keep making 'em, I can keep selling them," Wade said. "What we're telling people is, it won't be before Christmas."

The depth of the frenzy caught everyone off guard, Wade said. "This is an excitement level we haven't seen since the '90s. It's great to have it back."

The UK2K demand isn't limited to just the shirt. Matt Hoetker, an owner of Hands On Originals, said the win for the record books could set T-shirt sales records for his company. "It's unbelievable," he said.

After the game, Hands On printed 10,000 shirts with its own "2000 wins" design. By Tuesday night, those were expected to be gone.

Hoetker said he had 8,000 blank T-shirts arriving Wednesday. "We'll keep going until demand goes down," he said.

The demand is reminiscent of the 1998 national championships, Hoetker said. During that Final Four, his company sold 13,000 shirts, and they are on pace to pass that now.

"Everybody's fired up about UK basketball again," he said.

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