Any NBA player’s dream is to be sponsored by Nike. Nike has 11 of the 15 highest paid endorsement deals in sports, including contracts with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, etc.
LeBron just signed a lifetime contract that is worth upwards of $1 billion.
Stephen Curry, on the other hand, refuses to work with Nike and his reason why will blow your mind…
Signing Curry should’ve been the easiest thing in the world. He had many ties to Nike even before he played in the NBA. His godfather, Greg Brink, worked for Nike.
Curry also wore Nikes growing up and throughout his entire college career at Davidson.
When he was drafted 7th overall by the Golden State Warriors, no one doubted that he was going to sign with Nike…
And that’s exactly what happened. Nike signed him to a 4-year deal that lasted up until 2013.
In 2013, when Curry scored a career-high 54 points in Madison Square Garden, he wore Nike Zoom Hyperfuses. He saves that pair of sneakers to this day at his house to remember just how far his career has gone. It was his breakout year, setting the single-season record for 3-pointers made in the process.
Of course, Nike had to re-sign him.. right?
Following the end of his Nike contract in 2013, he was free to hear pitches from other companies, but Nike still owned the rights to match any deal that was made to him.
Nike set up a meeting with Curry and his father, former NBA player, Dell Curry, at the Oakland Marriott, the same building where the Warriors practiced. Steph said it was a bit awkward hearing a pitch from a company you’re already signed to, especially since you’re familiar with some of the people in the room.
The way that Nike is structured is they have tiers of athletes. The top tiered athletes had preferential treatment, which included the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Once the meeting began, it was crystal clear to both Steph and his father that they weren’t a top priority to Nike and weren’t even close to being considered in the top tier of the company…
The entire presentation by Nike was poorly planned and made Curry appear as an afterthought to other big-name athletes.
According to Curry’s father, NBA alumni Dell Curry, the first sign of disrespect was when the Nike representative giving the presentation mispronounced Stephen’s first name, calling him Steph-On instead of Steph-En. And the worst part was, NO ONE else in the room representing Nike corrected him. But that wasn’t what turned Curry away from Nike forever, it was something much, much worse…
As the meeting progressed, it became clear that Nike didn’t value Curry as much as others. They awarded youth development camps to Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis instead of Stephen Curry. Irving was drafted in 2011 and Davis in 2012, 2 and 3 years after Curry respectively.
The ability to help young players meant a lot to Curry, who could see himself in some of the players that attended those camps. He attended Chris Paul’s camp when he was younger and wanted to give back to kids who were in his position. But that wasn’t going to happen with Nike…
It’s possible that Nike simply did not have enough room for Curry, given that Irving plays the same position and had a certain swagger and cool image that Curry might have lacked at the time.
Whatever the reason, nothing should’ve excused Nike for the next mistake they made during their re-signing presentation to Stephen Curry. It could possibly go down as the biggest blunder in sports marketing history just by the sheer lack of disrespect it took to make the mistake.. brace yourself for it…
During the presentation, one of the Powerpoint slides had Kevin Durant’s name on it. The slide was literally the same slide used for a presentation to Kevin Durant and they forgot to change the name to Stephen Curry.
This was the ultimate sign of disrespect. Curry and his father stopped paying attention after that. Nike, even after the horrendous mistake, still had the audacity to offer Curry a $2.5 million contract to stay with them and that’s when Curry decided that he was worth so much more and it turns out.. he was worth over $14 billion more…
With Nike’s presentation over, it was clear that Stephen wouldn’t be one of their top tiered athletes and Dell encouraged him to not be afraid to try something out of the box.
Stephen was no stranger to being overlooked. During his entire career, he was never recruited, never much respected, but he loved to prove everyone wrong. He decided to bet on himself and this would turn out to be one of the best decisions of his life and would lose Nike billions of dollars…
Under Armour showed up at the perfect time to make a pitch that would make him one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. They offered him $4 million to join their team but Nike still had the rights to match their offer.
You have to understand that Under Armour was still taking a huge risk in betting $4 million on Curry. Up to that point, Curry had failed to reach the playoffs with the Warriors for 3 straight years and only played 26 games the year before due to injury. He was always looked at as injury-prone. It was a huge gamble…
After Curry refused Nike’s original $2.5 million offer, they decided to decline the option to match Under Armour’s $4 million offer.
This would turn out to be one of the biggest marketing mistakes ever made in sports history. Curry would go on to win the NBA championship and become the most popular player in the NBA. Everyone wanted to “be like Steph”. You won’t believe how much Curry single-handedly increased Under Armour’s worth…
After the signing of Stephen Curry, Under Armour’s stock price skyrocketed from $47 a share to $120 a share. He single-handedly doubled Under Armour’s worth from $14 billion to $28 billion in just a couple of years.
Under Armour knew how much he was worth to them and understood that $4 million a year wasn’t going to cut it anymore. They knew that in order to keep him signed with them, they’d have to come up with an offer he couldn’t refuse…
Curry not only propelled Under Armour to the second biggest player in the athletic sportswear marketplace, but he served as a catalyst to help them sign other high profile athletes in other sports, including Bryce Harper of MLB’s Washington Nationals and Jordan Spieth of the PGA Tour.
In December of 2016, Under Armour just signed a 10-year deal that will begin in 2020 to become the sole supplier of the on-field uniforms worn in every MLB game by every team.
Under Armour knew they couldn’t make the same mistake Nike did and prepared to offer Curry a deal of a lifetime.
After only 2 years with Under Armour, they put all their attention on re-signing Curry. They were able to agree on a deal that will keep him until 2024.
The deal included part ownership in the company, which neither Nike or Adidas have ever offered to any of their athletes. With the new, exclusive contract with the MLB signed just recently, that new deal could jump to over a billion dollars for Curry if all goes well.
Curry’s signature shoe is now the 2nd best selling shoe after Nike’s Jordan brand. It’s even more popular than LeBron James’ shoe, who Nike just signed a lifetime deal with that is valued at over $1 billion.
Nike is definitely regretting their missed opportunity to cash in on the “$14 billion man” especially when they had the chance to do so for just $4 million.
There are other reasons why Curry has stated he refused to re-sign with Nike…
Curry says that a big part of his decision came from his daughter Riley. The story goes that he gave her three different shoes to pick from, one from Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour.
She picked up one shoe, threw it over her shoulder, and picked up another. She grabbed the second shoe and threw it over her shoulder again. The last shoe left was an Under Armour shoe, which she brought to Steph and that’s when he said it clicked with him.
Another reason is more plausible…
There were rumors that Curry left Nike due to the company refusing to work his favorite bible verse into the design.
When he signed with Under Armour, his favorite verse, Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, was included on the tongue of the shoes produced by the company. “I can do all things” is on the inside of the tongue which is part of the verse.
Curry is very religious. He met his wife while they attended the same family church as teenagers. They were both in the same youth group at the church and ended up getting married there.
After every shot Curry makes, he taps his chest and points up. When asked about it, he said that it means “have a heart for God”. It keeps him grounded and reminds him after every shot why he plays the game and where he gets his strength from.
A much lesser known fact about him is that with every 3-pointer he makes, he literally saves lives…
Just as an added interesting fact. Ever since 4 years ago, Stephen has teamed up with ‘Nothing But Nets’, a campaign under the United Nations, that aims to stop a malaria epidemic that affects thousands of families in Africa.
Every 60 seconds, a child is killed by Malaria. The organization provides mosquito nets treated with insecticide to save the lives of families in need in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Curry was more than happy to step up and not only help these families but bring awareness to these staggering numbers. He thought the best way to do it was to incorporate it into his play on the court.
You won’t believe what he agreed to and how many lives he has potentially saved because of it…
He vowed that for every 3-pointer he makes, he would personally donate 3 mosquito nets to the foundation. In the first year he participated, the 2012-13 season, he broke the NBA record for 3-pointers in a season with 272 3-pointers. He came close the next season with 261. Then he broke his own record in 2014-15 with 286. And in 2017, he shattered the record with 402 3-pointers.
Over the last 4 seasons, he has personally saved the lives of over 3,663 families. The Warriors have also joined his cause and match his donations every season. So the total comes to over 7,326 families!