The story behind the Ron Hunter bobblehead

The Ron Hunter bobblehead. (Phil Sklar)

The Ron Hunter bobblehead. (Phil Sklar)

You’re not truly famous until a bobblehead doll is modeled after you.

Georgia State men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter is now immortalized with a bobblehead of him falling off the stool he was forced to coach from after tearing his Achilles celebrating his team’s win in the championship of the Sun Belt tournament.

The fall is the now-famous scene at end of the Panthers’ upset of third-seeded Baylor in the NCAA tournament, when Ron’s son R.J. hit a 30-foot 3-pointer with less than three seconds remaining to cap a 12-point comeback.

Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, was watching that game. A basketball fan who has been to five of the last six Final Fours, Sklar and museum co-founder Brad Novak knew they needed to manufacture a bobblehead of Hunter.

“It was an epic game,” Sklar said. “The aftermath with the press conference and the connection between R.J. and Ron. “It was a perfect combination of things.”

Sklar received approval from Ron Hunter and the process began. Using photos from the internet, a graphic designer created a model. That model and other photos were sent to a factory in China, which sculpted the bobblehead. After revisions, it was painted. After more revisions, the final version was manufactured and is now on sale for $25 at https://www.bobbleheadhall.com/shop/. One dollar from each sale will go to Samaritan’s Feet, a charity that Hunter supports.

Here’s a Q&A with Sklar, with questions and answers edited and/or paraphrased for clarity.

Q: How many Ron Hunter bobbleheads have you sold?

A: Today is first day we put it out there. I haven’t kept track. I know we have sold several hundred.

The orders started coming through really quick. It’s high quality, comes in a full-color box.

Ron was excited. He got his last week. He was happy to see it and how it turned out.

Q: Why a bobblehead museum?

A: The idea was born 1 1/2 years ago. We announced it last November to the public.

Right now, we are gearing up for preview exhibition, January through April in an art incubator in downtown Milwaukee. There will be several thousand bobbleheads on display, from pop culture to sports to political, and a dozen exhibits, from the history of the bobblehead to story of bobbleheads.

After that, our plan is to open a more permanent space the fall of 2016.

Q: Why are you interested in bobbleheads?

A: I’ve been collecting since I was little.

The co-founder was working for a minor league team in Rockford, Ill. They started using bobbleheads as a promotion.

We started going to bobblehead games. The collection grew from a handful to a hundred.

It was a hobby and then we made our first bobblehead of a superfan from Wisconsin-Milwaukee to make money for Special Olympics.

We realized there was opportunity in the market to create a bobblehead museum.

I was working in finance, other co-founder was working sales.

Our bobblehead collection was growing into the kitchen of our condo.

We thought, ‘What can we do to make this unique and gives us a competitive advantage?’ That’s how the idea of a museum about bobbleheads was born.

Q: What is the most famous bobblehead?

A: The 1999 Willie Mays bobblehead. That was the first one ever given away at a professional sporting event. That re-ignited the craze.

More and more teams sort of latched on. Now, 29 of 30 MLB teams gave bobbleheads away this year. Basketball and hockey from majors to minors gave them away.

Couple of others, one sold for almost $60,000 it was a Yankees bobblehead, oversized. There are only two known in existence. It’s from the 1961-62, a 14-inch Yankees promotional bobblehead.

Bobbleheads, a doll with a spring on its neck, go back to the 1770s. The first was two figurines behind a lady. They still pop up in auction every once in a while and fetch in the $30,000-40,000 range.

Q: What is your favorite bobblehead?

A: The Ron Hunter is pretty unique. I keep looking at it.

Of the ones out there, there are so many new ones every day.

Teams are getting more and more creative now.


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