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NBA eyes unauthorized Thunder merchandise

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The NBA calls a foul on some merchandise dealers in Oklahoma City.

The league is sending out a warning about counterfeit dealers hitting the market and cautions fans to steer clear of unauthorized or poorly produced knock offs.

Keep in mind though, unofficial doesn't always mean illegal.

With every big shot, the Thunder inch closer to winning an NBA title.

The playoff runs means big business for roadside dealers.

"It's the way I make a living. I just choose to do it outside and not indoors," dealer Jimmy Kriener said.

Kriener's merchandise stand at May Ave. and Hefner Rd., and others like the one at Memorial Rd. and Santa Fe Ave., do sell some authorized NBA products, like flags, hats and pennants.

Yet, the t-shirts on display with an angry basketball, the words Oklahoma City Championship Bound, are not authorized by the league but they're also not illegal.

"We just try to provide stuff the stores don't have," Kriener said. "People like our shirts. You can't copyright the city's name."

The shirts only run afoul of copyright rules if they use the Thunder or NBA logo's or the names and likenesses of players.

"Those are the rules and you're supporting the Thunder if you're buying merchandise that is authorized," Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney said.

Mahoney said anyone wanting officially licensed Thunder gear can visit the Thunder shop, most major retailers or online at the NBA store.

"I think most fans know if you're buying from a tent on the side of the road, it's probably not authorized. You're not going to get the quality you want," Mahoney said.

"The NBA's gotta protect their interest but they can check out our stuff. We don't sell bootleg. We wouldn't be here if it was bootleg. The city would shut us down," Kriener said.

The NBA does have officials in town on the lookout for illegal merchandise using the trademarked logos.

The best advice, as always, buyer beware.

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