Steph Curry should be a Nike athlete right now if you think about it. He should have signed with Nike a decade ago when he was just getting the always-bad Golden State Warriors into a position where they could win a championship. Excuse the pun, but this deal was the biggest layup that Nike has ever made.
What did Steph wear on her feet to school? Nike.
What kind of shoes did Steph Curry’s dad Dell Curry wear at the end of his NBA career? Nike.
During Steph’s first few years in the NBA, what kind of shoes did he wear? Nike.
When Steph was becoming a rising star in the league, where did his godfather work? Nike.
So, when Steph needed a new shoe contract in 2013, he signed with what company?
And what company is going to pay Steph $1 billion to wear its products for the rest of his life? Again, it’s Under Armour.
As we’ve already said, Steph Curry should be a Nike athlete right now by any logical measure. His current Under Armour contract expires in 2024. If what people say is true, Steph Curry will wear Under Armour until… he dies. And it’s all because of a terrible presentation that went wrong at the Nike corporate campus in 2013.
Nike Drops the Ball
Steph Curry was picked seventh in the first round of the 2009 NBA draught. During his first few years in the league, he hurt his legs a lot. He had to wear Nike shoes for those first few frustrating years because of a contract that ended after the 2013 season.
In 2013, Steph Curry led the Warriors all the way to the semifinals of the Western Conference. The best game the team has played in years.
Steph and his team, which included his dad, went to Nike with the hope/assumption that they could get a long-term, lucrative endorsement deal. His contract was up at the perfect time. Steph was a rising star, he already wore Nike, their contract was up, his father had ties to the company, and his godfather was an executive at Nike. To sweeten the deal, Steph wanted to run a Nike-sponsored camp for young players like the one he went to when he was younger. That camp was led by Chris Paul, another Nike athlete, and it helped his game and confidence a lot.
What should have been the easiest layup in Nike’s history went wrong.
First of all, instead of sending a high-ranking member of the company’s management or even the CEO… The Currys were upset that Nike sent a middle-level marketing director to make its pitch.
Second, during the meeting, Nike wasn’t sure if it wanted Steph to lead a camp. They weren’t sure if he was the big name they were looking for. Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis were chosen in the end to run Nike’s camps that summer.
But Nike’s worst mistakes were made during the pitch.
First of all, one of the Nike executives kept calling Steph “Steph-on,” which is how you would say “Stephon Marbury” or “Stefan Urquelle.” The correct way to say his name is “Steph-en.” Stephen, not Steven, because it rhymes with “effen.” Even though the unprepared Nike executive kept making the same mistake during the pitch, it wasn’t fixed. This made Dell Curry very angry.
But that wasn’t the worst thing he did. The worst thing was the Nike slides themselves.
As they went through the slides, it became clear that the ones that were supposed to be a custom pitch for Stephen Curry were actually slid from a previous pitch. How could they tell? Because Kevin Durant’s name was written all over one of the slides. It was like copying and pasting.
That was the last straw for the camel. When they left Nike’s campus, Dell said to a sad Steph, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about trying something new.”
There was a catch to whatever Steph chose. Nike did offer him a deal that would have paid him $2 million per season. At the time, he was only making around $3 million a year from his NBA salary, so this was a big amount. Even more important, Nike could also match any other offer Steph got.
Under Armour Swoops In
When Under Armour heard that Steph Curry was playing, they started sending Steph and the whole Warriors team boxes and boxes of free stuff. This made a start.
Next, Under Armour called on Kent Bazemore, a Warrior who already played for them. Kent explained the pitch during late-night shooting drills. Steph would be one of a hundred people who work for Nike. A step up the ladder. Steph would be the ladder at Under Armour. Not only the face and star of his own shoe line, which Nike didn’t sell but also of the whole company.
Kent Bazemore wasn’t just doing this to make Under Armour executives like him more. He had faith in the business. After not getting picked in the draught and being turned down by Nike, Under Armour gave Bazemore a contract that paid him six figures every year. At the time, his salary in the NBA was only about $400,000.
Steph thought it was true. There was also the fact that Nike could match any offer.
Under Armour’s offer was twice as much as Nike’s, and the first year of the deal would pay $4 million. Nike could have probably found the difference, $2 million, in the cushions of their couches. But somehow, Nike walked away.
In 2015, Steph and the Warriors won the NBA title for the second time. Steph signed an extension during the off-season that increased his Under Armour salary from $4 million to $10 million and then to $20 million. The new deal also kept him working for the company until 2024.
Now, Steph Curry is about to sign a lifetime deal with Under Armour worth $1 billion. A deal that will pay Steph much more than his NBA salary and money from endorsements outside of Under Armour put together. All things considered, a deal like this should never have happened in the first place.
Congratulations To Steph And Everyone Else Who Reads This! Before You Give Your Presentation, Check Your Powerpoint Slides!
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