Newsday's Al Iannazzone takes you inside the Knicks.
Classic Knicks jingle turns into a fortune
If you're a Knicks fan, you know this song by heart. And if you're not old enough to remember the championship era, you have this season in your heart.
The story behind how the "Go NY Go NY Go" song became a beloved part of Knicks history is a success story that even the man behind it still can't believe.
"This started," Jesse Itzler said, "with a jingle."
Itzler was 22 years old when he had a chance encounter that changed his life. In 1991, he had enjoyed some mild pop success with the name "Jesse Jaymes" and a couple of made-for-MTV, frat-rap songs, "Shake It Like a White Girl" and "College Girls are Easy." Then in '93, Itzler got a gig to make a jingle for a children's clothing company, owned by a woman named Nancy Grunfeld.
You might know her husband, Ernie. He happened to be the Knicks general manager at the time.
So while working with Mrs. Grunfeld, Jesse, a Long Island native from Roslyn, talked his way into an opportunity to create a theme song for the Knicks. By the spring of 1994, the entire city was singing his song.
"First of all, I got paid $4,000 to do the song," Itzler said. "After I paid the studio, the singers, the producer and all of that, it basically cost me money to do it."
But the value of the doors that opened for him as a result of this success was incalculable. The NBA took note of the song's popularity in New York and hired him to work for them. The move produced immediate dividends, as Itzler created the well known "I Love This Game" slogan and campaign. Over the next three years, he also worked for several other NBA teams and teams in other sports until he had a business so strong, SFX Entertainment came along to buy it from him.
That's when the financial reward for that silly Knicks jingle showed its value, along with his connections to millionaire athletes and CEOs. From there, Itzler's insatiable entreprenurial spirit took off. He created Marquis Jet -- a private airline service -- with another partner and soon that, too, became a huge success.
Once that was sold, Itzler went to the next project, which was introduced to giggles and gasps last season, starting with former Knick Danilo Gallinari's admission that he likes to "Take a Sheet" during games.
See for yourself:
Itzler partnered up with Warren Struhl to create a company called PUREBRANDS and their first effort is a product called "Sheets Energy Strips." It's basically a combination of those Listerine strips and the 5 Hour Energy drink. Many pro athletes have been drawn to it. In fact, Itzler's idea caught the attention of LeBron James and his business manager, Maverick Carter, both of whom invested in the product.
[By the way, yes, Struhl is the same guy who co-founded Dale and Thomas Popcorn, of which Isiah Thomas is a partner. Amazing how the Six Degrees of Isiah Thomas game can always be played with almost every Knicks story these days.]
Itzler's company has signed several pro athletes to endorse the Sheets Energy product, including Amar'e Stoudemire, who was at the Duane Reade on Wall Street last Friday to promote it. Itzler was there for the appearance and laughed when I asked him if Amar'e knew he was standing next to the guy who wrote the "Go NY Go NY Go" song.
"Well," Itzler said, "he was like seven when it came out."
More like 11, but there have been so many versions of the song since '94, it's impossible to keep track of which version is the original. The most recent came out before the playoffs last spring, when Swizz Beats put his own, uh, spin (sorry) on it.
Itzler would love to make a new one, but there's something to be said about messing with success.
"In my heart of hearts, I still think nothing's ever going to beat that," he said. "It's one of those things that will work forever and will bring back memories, especially of you're a Knicks fan."