In NBA circles, it is a foregone conclusion that most athletes are going to partner with shoe giants Nike, Reebok, or Adidas. After all, Nike helped turn Michael Jordan into a billionaire and where LeBron James immediately signed out of high school. Stephen Curry, on the other hand, spurned Nike for Under Armour and started a lucrative partnership for both parties.
That partnership was tested, however, after Under Armour’s owner made some comments that didn’t sit well with the Warriors superstar.
Steph Curry joined Under Armour
Steph Curry grew up with Nike. His father was a professional basketball player and his godfather, Greg Brink, worked for Nike. Curry wore Nike shoes as a kid, in college, and into the first years of his career. As a big-name college player, Nike brought Curry into its family when he was coming into the NBA, but as an unproven player, it wasn’t the lucrative deal others got. Upon renewal, things went sour.
According to Ethan Strauss of ESPN, a meeting with Nike changed Curry’s mind about joining the family, however. First, the representative who was trying to coax the young NBA star to join pronounced his name as “Steph-on.” Then, a PowerPoint presentation presumed to be targeted at Steph left Kevin Durant’s name on it. All of this combined to produce a feeling that Curry would continue being a second-tier athlete in Nike’s eyes. It implied a lack of interest in Curry, who didn’t want to go anywhere unless he was going to feel wanted and valued by his company.
Eventually, Curry switched companies and signed with Under Armour. The company was trying to break into the shoe game, and Curry had the potential to be its biggest client. The move would coincide with Curry’s rise into stardom and prove lucrative for all parties.
Curry’s value to the bottom line
According to Business Insider, Curry’s shoes immediately became a top seller for a company whose previous big names were Kent Bazemore and Brandon Jennings. Basketball shoe sales grew over 350% after Curry signed there and began his rice into dominance in the NBA. Some theorized that with Curry at the helm, Under Armour could see its value skyrocket to $14 billion.
Curry’s shoes were outselling LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and Jordan’s individually, and some believed that if Curry could keep up the sales, Nike would take a major hit on the coveted shoe market. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank credited Curry for the company’s growth on more than one occasion, and the two forged a bond that would make each side a lot of money.
Although Curry would need to have sustained greatness to reach the level of Jordan and James, the fact that he was outselling them was a great sign for Under Armour’s desire to be a giant in the shoe industry. That didn’t play out exactly how they planned it to, however, and Plank almost cost his company its biggest name when he opened his mouth about politics.
(Almost) Losing Steph Curry
Eventually, the sales began to slump after the luster began to wear off on the budding Under Armour shoes. On top of this, Curry was not content with the performance, nor recent comments that Plank had calling President Donald Trump, who has verbally sparred with Curry and other professional athletes, “a real asset” to the country. Plank implied that his intent was misconstrued, but that did not win Curry over.
Desperate to mend fences with the company’s biggest name, The New York Times reports that offered Curry his version of the Jordan Brand under the Under Armour label. That was enough to get Curry to re-sign with the company for millions of dollars a year and continue the partnership, even as Under Armour fell short of its long-term expectations.
Curry is different than most superstars in several ways. It stretches to his brand off of the court. By flexing his power with Under Armour, however, Curry showed that he was not going to let the company forget what kind of asset he was to the company. In the end, Stephen Curry got his money, and Under Armour is still breathing. Where they go from here, however, is anybody’s guess.