What seemed like a decently significant move at the time has turned enormous. Curry has developed into the NBA’s best player – and one of the league’s most popular. The small guard is personable, his friendly nature making him seem more approachable to fans.
How did Nike let him get away?
The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”
It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant‘s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.
In the meeting, according to Dell, there was never a strong indication that Steph would become a signature athlete with Nike. “They have certain tiers of athletes,” Dell says. “They have Kobe, LeBron and Durant, who were their three main guys. If he signed back with them, we’re on that second tier.”
Nike still had an opportunity to salvage the situation when Curry indicated he wanted to sign elsewhere.
In 2013, Nike retained Curry’s matching rights, analogous to how NBA restricted free agency works. They still could have signed Curry, regardless of his preferences. According to a Sept. 16, 2015, report from ESPN’s Darren Rovell, “Nike failed to match a deal worth less than $4 million a year.”
[Under Armour executive Kris] Stone characterizes the decision as, “If you don’t want to be here, then don’t be here.” Athletes are expected to want Nike, to have always wanted Nike from the time they were kids.
That meeting was one of several factors, including Nike not giving Curry a camp and Warriors teammate Kent Bazemore hawking Under Armour.
I highly recommend reading Strauss’ entire article for a deep dive into Curry’s affect on the shoe industry.