Banks A Lot

The New York Post / John Oliver
March, 2004

Carl Banks made his name as one of the stalwarts of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the last 1980s, but these days his big hits are coming in the garment industry.

Banks, who is now GIII Apparel Group's vice president of licensing and president of GIII Sports, was ahead of the curve on turning licensed sports apparel into a fashion statement.

Banks certainly developed some skills off the field and quickly developed a $3 million sports line by 1988 - about seven years before he officially retired from the NFL.

The former superstar was able to use his business savvy to appeal to the NFL and became the leading provider of outerwear for the league.

Even when he was enjoying his heyday with the Big Blue, Banks was busy making business contacts outside the Meadowlands.

"I would host business luncheons every Monday after every game with 100 paid members - all businessmen. It was all about networking," Banks told The Post.

He even took business pointers from Knicks manager Isiah Thomas.

"[Isiah and I] would have dinner and talk about how important it is to go to social events," he recalled.

"In order to grow and expand, I needed to develop marketable skills outside the game."

How today's players manage the transition from the sports arenas to the business world is a different story.

As leagues draft younger athletes with each new year, players who haven't even seen their rookie cards begin to collect dust are already being called "veterans" of the game.

Many of them, such as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Shaquille O'Neal, branch out into the entertainment industry. Others open restaurants or car dealerships to capitalize on their fame.

In almost every case, though, they'll start making plans early for a post-game career.

"The smart athletes, the ones in the middle of their career, they realize this isn't going to last so they create that challenge right then and there," said Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports Marketing and Memorabilia Inc.

Steiner, whose book, "The Business Playbook," illustrates the striking similarities between the mindset of an athlete and that of a shrewd businessman, has tracked the success stories and failures of many retired players.

"It's all about character and attitude, and being able to focus," he said.

"It's the same thing you do when you win in the game and in business. But some of these guys want instant gratification all the time. They just want to worry about this week or this year. And that's where they failed - they didn't plan ahead."

Banks' fellow ex-Giant Phil McConkey also began to build his post-game career in the same fashion.

The former wide receiver/punt returner now reigns as Partner at Garban-Giorgio Equity Trading, a block-trading firm in Connecticut.

"I met a lot of people," McConkey said. "And I believe that players, especially in the NY metro area, would be wise to branch out when they are at these different events and talk to the people that are running them."

Like Steiner, McConkey sees similarities between his experience as a football player and his current profession in the corporate world. "There are many similarities with sales and football. There's focus, unwavering attention to detail, repetition," he said.

"McConkey and Banks understood the hard work that goes into the business," Steiner added. "They didn't just use their celebrity name. They don't expect it to just happen - they made it happen."

And there are a few big names today that are already shaping their future off the field.

"Derek Jeter has always had his arm in there, understanding and developing things after his game," Steiner said.

"Five years down the road I can see him creating and investing in some business scenarios."

The sports business guru also has his eye on Emmitt Smith and Mark Messier.


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