The first half of 2016 could not have been better scripted for Stephen Curry. The baby-faced lights out shooter was changing the way that the game was played and we there to witness it all in real time (and Vine). From his deft dribbling antics to even wilder shots, nobody has ever been more emboldened to just shoot their shot like Curry. He became the first player to win the NBA’s MVP award – his second consecutive honor – unanimously, his Golden State Warriors won a league-record 73 games in the regular season, his Under Armour team was rising up the charts as possibly a real competitor to Nike and for the first time ever, a video game actually released an update dedicated solely to making digital Curry more “realistic”.

Steph was the living embodiment of a cheat code. With apologies to Konami and Xavier Woods, there should have been an Under Armour Curry 2 “Up, Up, Down, Down” colorway during this epic run.

Under Armour
Under Armour

It wasn’t a total fantasy, of course; Curry was sidelined for a few games in the playoffs with an injury and his Under Armour Curry 2 Low Chef release was no doubt the most clowned-on shoe not related to Derrick Rose of the past several years. To continue the theme of things we haven’t seen before, we have never had a signature athlete more celebrated for his play on the court and have a shoe that was more divisive than Curry and the Curry 2. They sold like hot cakes to be sure and the kids swear by them, but you’re not exactly catching looks of envy rocking a pair of them on the streets. It didn’t matter none to Under Armour’s bottom line as sales of the Currys were meteoric, but they probably would prefer if they captured all markets and didn’t have to deal with the jokes and memes.

But life was good if you’re Steph Curry heading into the June. You were the undisputed face of two billion dollar businesses and you had a 3-1 lead in the Finals en route to a second championship and a place among the GOATs. What could possibly happen that could send that all crashing down? And by “crashing down,” I mean “blowing said 3-1 lead and instead of tumbling down to Earth, you land softly into the arms of Kevin Durant (with Nike).”

Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group
Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

Curry’s ascent into superstardom was a surprise to everybody, but what nobody batted an eye at was his willingness to welcome another superstar into a team that’s already loaded with stars. His upbringing and humility let go of the ego part that we are so used to seeing; it’s more common to see power struggles when super teams are created than it was to see a team that genuinely appears to not care who is “the man.” Even though he doesn’t garner the same highlights that he used to on a nightly basis and his numbers are all down compared to his history-making 2015-16 campaign, the greater good is what ultimately matters to Steph.

But does Under Armour sees KD as beneficial to Curry and their brand? Will the championships that this partnership is expected to bring to Oakland be a boon for the Curry 3 and 4 and 5, or will KD be seen as the catalyst and thus Nike gets the love? Durant coming to the Bay has been met with a marketing blitz by Nike that is not unlike what they do for Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. After a few off years that saw KD signature pile up in stores, the KD 9 has been a nice surprise in terms of look and price. Meanwhile, the start of the 2016-17 NBA season has seen sales of the Under Armour Curry 3 slow down compared to previous Steph signatures. A lot of factors contributed to that, not the least of which was the higher price point of the 3, especially since part of the marketing for Curry signature and Curry himself was that he was approachable and a more “realistic” star unlike athletic freaks of nature like LeBron James and KD.

As the Warriors continue on the pace of well, last year’s Warriors, there will be plenty of chatter as to who is the alpha dog of the squad. If Curry has had a problem deferring to KD, it has not shown on or off the court. But if KD continues to usurp the the foundation Curry has created for himself as the Bay Area’s most popular athlete, it will be interesting to follow this from the standpoint of both Nike and Under Armour. For Nike, this is their chance to turn KD into their Trojan Horse into Silicon Valley, forging partnerships that will extend the swoosh’s dominance far beyond that fancy Nike+ Apple Watch you got. For Under Armour, you might prefer it if Steph crossed over a few more suckers and drained some game-winners from half-court to keep up their momentum. Whether they want to admit it or not, this is a fun competition that we hope will play out for years to come…

I just wonder if Klay Thompson is going to need to score 101 points just so people will notice ANTA. 60 didn’t seem to do the trick…

 

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