For the last two seasons, Stephen Curry has had a salary higher than anybody else in the NBA. He is currently a three time NBA Champion, a two-time MVP, a six-time All-Star and what not. And his fame in the Basketball community that makes him one of the most contemporary marketable athletes. How much Nike would have loved to have him to endorse their brand now!
It was not always the case with Curry and Nike. In fact, as many would know, Curry started his NBA career with a Nike contract. The season before Curry became an MVP, the Nike contract was about to expire, but instead of renewing it Curry signed with Under Armour.
How did Nike lose Stephen Curry to Under Armour?
So, why did it happen? Just when Curry’s contract with Nike was about to expire, a 25-year old Stephen Curry, along with his father, went to attend pitch meeting held by Nike in a hope to renew the contract. The meeting, however, began on an extremely embarrassing note. When Curry’s name was to be announced, it was pronounced as “Steph-on” instead of Stephen.
The evening did not get any better. When Nike began to show its presentation to Curry, it had Kevin Durant’s name in it. By this time, Curry might have probably made up his mind, and the even the Nike people might also have known the outcome of the meeting. But it continued till the end, Curry was signed by Under Armour.
There are two things to note in the meeting- 1. When Curry was already contracted to Nike, was a pitch meeting really needed? And 2. How serious were Nike about resigning Curry?
While the former might have its own reasons, the latter gives some scope for a few speculations. By the time the contract was due, Curry was not even an All-star. No doubt, he was a prospect, but that he would become such a global superstar that he is now, was surely not expected at that time. Another speculation might go into the rise of Kyrie Irving in the sneaker market at that time. Kyrie might also not have earned many major accolades, but his value shoes had a significant value. Both Kyrie and Curry being players of same position, there might have been a second thought about Curry.
The story does not end here. For Under Armour to sign Curry, it was not as straight forward pitch. Another guard Kent Bazemore, in his two year stint with the Warriors, had a huge role to play in Curry UA deal. Bazermore had an Under Armour deal, and it was through him that the company is known to have reached Curry.
Even after that, Nike had one more opportunity. In 2013, Nike retained Curry’s matching rights, which meant that they still could have signed Curry, regardless of his preferences. According to a 2015 report from ESPN, “Nike failed to match a deal worth less than $4 million a year.”
An amount, which when compared to Stephen Curry now, will feel silly to have not matched it. Under Armour, who didn’t even have 1% of the sneaker market, were able to have a superstar to endorse them, thanks to an assist from Nike!