multiple news outlets reported on Stephen Curry’s signing to Under Armour breaking the paradigm of the sneaker business model. While this is inherently true, it has also afforded Curry the unique ability to be a Godly witness to a huge audience.
Reports from earlier this month indicated that Nike rejected Curry because of his strong Christian faith and desire to have Bible verses on his sneakers. It was also cited that Kevin Durant’s scripture themed sneakers are custom made for him because that would mean exposing millions to Jesus through a sneaker, something that was not okay for the Nike brand to mass produce. While these claims sort of make sense, and could very well have some truth to it, they have not been verified.
It does draw the interesting question of, “What did Under Armour see in this young-faith-driven point guard that Nike didn’t?” ESPN found the answer, but it has more to do with Curry’s ability to shut the critics down than the scripture on his shoe.
ESPN reported that Nike took Curry for granted, and basically overlooked him in favor of “superstar” players such as Lebron James, Durant, Kobe Bryant, and, of course, Michael Jordan. Curry doesn’t fit that mold, or at least, that’s what they thought.
Nike is reported to own 95.5% of the sneaker market with 74% of all the NBA signed to them. They make $20 billion annually off their NBA sneakers. And while UA has ways to go to catch them, their sneakers sales are up 350% thanks to Curry, the new thorn in Nike’s side.
So what exactly happened?
In 2013, Curry’s contract was up, and it was time to re-pitch him. According to Curry’s father Dell, the pitch meeting was a disaster as the Nike executive kept referring to Steph as Steph-on. From there, it only got worse as the slides in the pitch featured Durant’s name. Dell told ESPN, he “stopped paying attention after that.”
All Nike had to do was match the $4 million Under Armour was offering, but they stood firm at $2.5 million. That offer will undoubtedly haunt Nike for a long time as Curry is seemingly cementing his name in the record books every week.
"Everything that makes him human and cuddly and an unlikely monster is anathema to Nike. They like studs with tight haircuts and muscles,” said Sonny Vaccaro to ESPN, who worked with Nike in the early 90s. "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.”
The craziest part of the story is how Curry got involved with UA. His former teammate, Kent Bazemore sort of pushed his way into UA. He was nothing but a non-guaranteed rookie trying to make the Golden State Warriors and yet was able to get a deal. He and his agent pitched Under Armour on giving him a chance, and he would be the “brand ambassador.” Knowing that Curry’s contract with Nike was up, he pitched his teammate on the idea and Curry took a meeting. The rest is history.
Circling back to Curry’s faith, his pairing with Under Armour has allowed him to share his Christianity on a global scale. All of Curry’s sneakers feature a Bible verse or Christian imagery on it.
Last year Under Armour released the Curry One, which featured the tagline "Charged By Belief" and 4:13 on the tongue, a nod to Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
The slogan for the Curry Two is "Iron Sharpens Iron.” Proverbs 27:17 reads, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."