Stephen Curry. By now you’ve heard of him, right? He’s the reigning NBA MVP on his way to a second trophy, the leader of the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, and his team is poised to break the NBA record for the all-time greatest single season, a record of 72-10, once held by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Oh, and he’s also leading the league in scoring.
Damn every prediction you had about the young guard coming out of Davidson, nobody saw this coming. Not the people who predicted he was too small to be a star in the NBA, not a blindsided LeBron James when his team was run through by the Warriors at least year’s NBA Finals, and not Nike.
In a great story on ESPN today, TrueHoop breaks down exactly how Nike let one of the most phenomenal athletes in all of sports slip through their fingertips. There have been theories about other players taking precedence, or untrue stories about Bible verses on sneakers, but the story is broken down in explicit detail for the first time by the people who lived through it.
Make no mistake about it, Nike isn’t missing any meals when it comes to their grip on the NBA. Nike has signed 68 percent of NBA players, more than 74 percent if you include Nike’s Jordan Brand subsidiary. They are also poised to become the NBA’s official outfitter next season. However, Curry’s impact on the game and influence with Under Armour has made more than a dent.
On March 3, 2016, Business Insider relayed a note from Morgan Stanley analyst Jay Sole on Under Armour’s business prospects. In it, Curry’s potential worth to the company is placed at more than a staggering $14 billion. Sole’s call on UA’s stock is bearish relative to other prognosticators, but for one man’s power to change everything.
His note reads, “UA’s U.S. basketball shoe sales have increased over 350 percent YTD. Its Stephen Curry signature shoe business is already bigger than those of LeBron, Kobe and every other player except Michael Jordan. If Curry is the next Jordan, our call will likely be wrong.”
In the story, ESPN spoke with several people in Curry’s circle including Stephen’s father Dell, and he recalls Nike’s pitch to keep Curry after his deal was set to expire in 2013. Nike, to put it frankly, got lazy.
“That summer, when it was really decision time, [Nike] were looking at Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis coming up,” said Curry’s friend and former roommate Chris Strachan. “They gave Kyrie a camp and they gave Anthony Davis a camp. They didn’t give Steph a camp.”
The disrespect continued, as one Nike official accidentally addressed Stephen as “Steph-on.”
“I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”
Further along in the presentation, a PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name presumably by accident. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was already in motion according to the story.
“Everything that makes him human and cuddly and an unlikely monster is anathema to Nike. They like studs with tight haircuts and muscles,” says basketball sneaker luminary Sonny Vaccaro. “He went to Davidson. He was always overlooked. He was skinny, he was frail, he was all the things you weren’t supposed to be. He never got his due. All of a sudden, like a bolt of lightning, Steph Curry is on the scene. And this is the hardest thing for Nike to swallow right now.”
Vaccaro continues by stating, “What you’re witnessing is a phenomenon. This is like Michael signing with Nike in ’84. He’s going to morph into the most recognizable athlete. And why is he going to be that? Because he’s like everybody else.”
You can read the entire story on ESPN right here.
Photo Credit: Complex