Stephen Curry’s potential value to Under Armour, according to a Morgan Stanley analyst quoted in this article from ESPN, is $14 billion. That is an unfathomable number, a value that can only be believed in print, since it’s almost impossible to envision that much money. Curry’s signature kicks with UA, the Curry 1, 2 and soon-to-release 3, have turned the basketball sneaker industry on its head. Although the Swoosh still dominates much of the basketball landscape, the success of Curry’s kicks has allowed Under Armour to make serious inroads into a sport it was once completely shut out of.
The thing is, Nike had an opportunity to capitalize on Curry’s unbelievable rise. Curry wore Nikes during the first four years of his NBA career, and he was poised to re-sign with the brand when his initial contract expired in 2013. Nike even had the ability to match any other deal offered to Curry by another brand. At that time, though, Curry wasn’t the Curry he is now—not quite. He was averaging 22.9 points per game, eight less than his absurd 30.1 average this season, while taking four fewer 3-pointers a game. But the signs that he would become great were there.
We all know what happened next. Curry spurned Nike to sign with Under Armour, and his shoe is now the most popular basketball sneaker in the game. But the reasons behind his decision to switch brands are fascinating. As it turns out, Nike didn’t make Curry a priority. At their pitch meeting with Curry in 2013, Lynn Merritt, who is LeBron James’s brand manager and a major negotiator for Nike, wasn’t even in the room. Even more surprising, a Nike executive mispronounced Curry’s first name, referring to him as Steph-ON instead of Stephen. Nike also mistakenly left Kevin Durant’s name in a powerpoint made for Curry.
“I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell Curry, Stephen’s father, told ESPN.
Combine those mistakes with Nike’s unwillingness to place Curry in their top tier of new signature athletes, like Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving, and Curry was already on his way out the door. Now, Under Armour is heavily reaping the benefits. What a story.