An Instagram message from LeBron James early Sunday afternoon set off a torrent of activity at Adidas’ printing plant on the east side of Indianapolis.
Shortly after 1 p.m., James got the message out on social media (he also tweeted it) that he has chosen to wear No. 23 next season and, within minutes, Adidas officials confirmed they were setting up all 20 printing machines at the company's Indianapolis licensing unit to crank out James replica jerseys and T-shirts bearing the player's name and number.
Local Adidas officials had prepared for James to pick either No. 6, which he wore in Miami; No. 23, which he had worn when he was first drafted by Cleveland; or No. 32, since there was talk that James would wear that in tribute to Magic Johnson. On Sunday, local Adidas workers quickly put their plan into place to print items with the No. 23.
The presses in Indianapolis were running off James gear by 6 p.m. Normally, this time of year, the Indianapolis Adidas plant would be printing about six different runs, including general NBA merchandise, college football and Major League Soccer items. In addition to those things, local plant officials said items for two international soccer teams—Argentina and Germany—and World Cup soccer items had to be set aside to focus on James shirts and jerseys.
This week marked the first time the entire Indianapolis plant was dedicated to making items of a single player since Brett Favre joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2009.
“Normally, when we dedicate our presses to one thing, it’s an event like the Stanley Cup or World Cup,” said Blake Lundberg, who oversees operations at Adidas’ facility off Post Road.
The local facility, which employs 1,250 people and runs around the clock, will be shipping LeBron James jerseys and T-shirts to more than 140 accounts Monday and Tuesday, Lundberg said.
Adidas declined to say how many of James’ Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys initially would be made. Lundberg said they'd be cranking out "thousands." Demand is clearly high.
Adidas officials began taking pre-orders July 11, the day James made the announcement he would depart Miami to return to Cleveland. Demand for James’ new Cleveland jersey has been extremely high in home, away and alternative replicas, Cavaliers officials said. Since the jerseys themselves are made in China and it takes a month to get them to the United States, there was some concern that initial supply would not meet demand.
In addition to the 20 presses in Indianapolis, Adidas has another eight in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and five more in Cleveland churning out LeBron James items.
“This is a huge event for the league and for us,” Lundberg said. “This is what we’re good at, quick turnaround. So this is pretty exciting for us.”