He was never expected to be great. We all know the story by now–colleges overlooked him coming out of high school. Executives undervalued him as time for a new contract came around. The league didn’t even recognize him as an All-Star until 2014. And the sneaker behemoths partially disregarded him.
Except Under Armour. Under Armour saw that special “something” in Stephen Curry when the brand signed him in the fall of 2013. And he has delivered in a mighty way for them. The Golden State Warriors’ superstar has had one of the most memorable individual seasons in recent years, culminating with the league’s Most Valuable Player award and, with a potential win tonight, an NBA championship.
Curry averaged 23.8 points and 7.7 assists per game, both good for sixth in the league, while breaking his own single-season three-point record set the year prior, connecting on 286. He also leapfrogged all-time great Reggie Miller for most three-pointers made in one postseason, surpassing Reg’s 58 in just 13 games–it took Miller 22 games to reach that mark.
All season long, the shooting guard sliced through defenders, dished spectacular passes, and knocked down shots with ease that none of us can even figure out how to make in 2K.
But it is no surprise that Curry’s huge season with the basketball in his hands was intertwined as the big news on his feet broke: The release of his first-ever signature shoe, the Curry One, in February of this year.
It is rare, in 2015, to see a star on the court not sporting Nike sneakers. Or Jordan Brand apparel. Or even adidas swag. But Under Armour and Curry…they’re different. They’re underdogs. And they continue to surprise.
Nike, which provided Curry with sneakers for the first four years of his career, is the world’s largest sports brand. It controls 95 percent of the basketball-shoe market in the U.S. with players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and countless others.
Under Armour, on the other hand, is in the low-single digits, ranking third behind adidas. Aside from Curry, it includes Brandon Jennings, Raymond Felton, and Kemba Walker, among a few others. Talented? Sure. But up against the likes of LBJ and KD? Not so much.
Although still small in comparison, Under Armour has the opportunity to chip away at Nike’s dominance through Curry. The shooting guard is in his prime and with the help of Riley Curry, the adorable two-year-old daughter of Steph who stole much of the playoff spotlight, his appeal has never been wider. Yet as much as he has and will help the brand, it is Under Armour that is helping him, too.
It is important to have a brand one can identify with. Just as LeBron, an international favorite since his teenage years, naturally signed with powerhouse Nike, it makes sense that Curry feels right at home with Under Armour. He’s comfortable with being the underdog, and feels with the Curry One he can continue to excel on the floor. (How many kids from small colleges like Davidson end up with their own signature shoe?!)
Apart from Curry’s obvious and jaw-dropping talent, his popularity is rising faster than the time it takes him to launch a three-pointer. He seems to be universally liked across the sports world, a rarity in today’s society. The 27-year-old has a flair for the dramatic, genuinely has tons of fun while playing the game we all love, is a family man (we have to mention Riley once more because she’s just the best) and, in large part due to Under Armour and his new kicks, has the swagger to compete with anyone on the planet.
A CitiGroup survey from February named the Curry One as the second-most hyped shoe of the year, falling just behind–you probably guessed it–LeBron’s latest signature shoe. The Curry One is also the best-selling item on Under Armour’s website.
Moving forward, as Curry will undoubtedly continue to dazzle on the court, Under Armour will be right there with him enjoying the ride. Expect more shattered records. More unthinkable highlights. More Riley Curry heartwarming moments. And, of course, more slick sneakers.
For the kid who was never expected to be great, Stephen Curry is doing just fine.
Follow Matthew on Twitter at @matthewhochberg