As he flies to China today for the Golden State Warriors' third pre-season game of the year, Stephen Curry has a lot to reflect on from the past year: from his 54-point Madison Square Garden explosion in February to the Warriors' against-all-odds playoff run. His career averages of 19.2 ppg and 6.1 apg have yet to land him on an All-Star (or All-NBA) team, but that is sure to change. The 25-year-old guard has already become the star his seventh-overall draft selection foretold, which was reflected in his off-season free agency. No, not in the NBA — Curry re-upped with the Warriors for a bargain-basement $44 million back in 2012 — but in sneakers. With his Nike contract set to expire, Curry decided to listen to all offers before making a decision. And in the end, he chose to sign a five-year deal with Under Armour, which became official on October 1st. Here, in his first post-decision interview, Curry discusses why he made the switch.
When did this start coming together, switching over to Under Armour?
Well I knew I was going to be a sneaker free agent all year. And you go through all of the different meetings and processes and presentations from all of the different companies. And I was really impressed with Under Armour’s presentation, and the shoe that they brought to the meeting. And they showed me the direction that they were headed, with the basketball brand. I was really impressed when I first met with them. And I didn’t have any background with them. But I met with them and felt pretty good about them. I went to my other meetings, with Nike and adidas, and some other companies. And at the end of the day you try to make a decision, of where you fit at comfortably and where you can build your own brand but also be able to play in a comfortable shoe, to put time into and cater to. So it was a good look and pretty impressive
They’re known to be working with guards, like Kemba [Walker], Ray Felton, and Brandon Jennings. Did you end up talking to any of those guys before you made it official?
I talked to Kemba [Walker], I saw him at a gig I had in New York. He was having his camp and we talked for a little bit. And just gave me a sense of the people that he sees and the people that he works with on a day-to-day basis. You don’t really know much about them, but you get more comfortable with the new faces and names and that was really helpful.
You were a Nike guy pretty much your whole life, right? You wore them at Davidson [College] and there’s photos of you as a kid wearing Nikes too. Was that a big decision to have to make?
Yeah it was a huge, huge decision. With Nike they were pretty much family—my godparents worked for the company—so ever since I was in high school, I’d look forward to when they’d come around. They would bring me Nike shoes. In my high school we wore Nikes our last year and then since then I’ve been all Nike. So it was a huge jump, but it all made sense.
I assume some people are going to look at it as you had that run with the bad ankles, did that factor into it at all? Were you looking for something to give you a little extra support and working with someone from a fit perspective?
Well, I know the amount of athletes that [Under Armour] have in sports and the amount of attention that they can provide. It’s not that Nike didn’t, but [UA's] got about eight guys that they can give a person-to-person experience [to]. I wouldn’t say quicker, but more attentive to an individual standpoint. When I talk about my ankles, its not like I’ve only sprained my ankle in Nikes. They’re obviously a premier brand in basketball. But when I went to the meeting and saw what Under Armour was bringing to the table, and how customizable they could make my shoes for me, that definitely made me a lot more comfortable with switching sides and making Under Armour the new family.
And hey, they made those crazy hightops last year...
For me, it’s like you go into the meeting and you see the future and the past, because they’re still young. And we’ve been trying things out to find my place in the market. So I could talk for days about what they’ve got coming and how I can be a part of that growth. And how they can be a serious player when it comes to not trying to take over Nike and adidas, but to make their presence known and to compete in the market, which I know that they can.
Have you guys talking about signature product moving forward?
Yea, we talked about it but we can’t confirm that stuff, it’s still in the works and I hope that sooner than later we can let it be known what direction they’re going with that. But that's definitely an opportunity that I wanted to pursue when switching over, to eventually have a signature shoe. That a huge opportunity and a big deal.
Do you think that this is all part of moving forward? We’ve seen things have been moving pretty fast with the game at Madison Square Garden and last year’s playoff run. Is part of the growth/evolution?
Yeah, I’m just trying to find my way. Taking chances, seizing the moment of opportunity. I had a great run last year and poised to have another this year. But stuff off the court; you just want to enjoy it. That’s why I went through the whole presentation process. If you think about it, you have these big-time shoe companies, taking time out of their schedule and present to me, its still kind of surreal that that’s the situation and I definitely didn’t take it for granted. I did my due diligence with research to find out what the right company for me was. And that’s why I made the move, at this point in my career I think it bodes well for the future.
Under Armour always talks about that underdog mindset that follows them in the basketball world and that’s how I’ve been my whole career.
It’s funny because I feel like this has been your free agency since you re-up’d with Golden State. Instead of having the team thing, you did the sneaker company thing.
Yea, the narrative is kind of weird. I obviously left Nike but it’s not like I just ended my contract and said bump y’all I’m out. It’s more like this is the situation; everyone knew this was going to come up when I signed my first contract out of college. Nike came in and presented like the rest of the companies and I had to make the best decision for me. So that’s kind of how I approached the whole process. It was a fun deal, I can’t lie.
When they presented it to you, was it not just basketball, like the training side and that sort of thing too?
Well that’s what they’re good at, the whole compression brand. That’s how they kind of started off, and obviously their presence in football as well. When you to talk to the people in charge of making decisions and how passionate they sounded about building a basketball brand, and I can continues to grow my career alongside them. They always talk about that underdog mindset that follows them in the basketball world and that’s how I’ve been my whole career.
Do you look at the lifestyle component at all? Obviously with Under Armour being the newer company they don’t have that insane back catalog that Adidas or Nike does. Is there any talk about doing an off court shoe, something more casual?
We’ve been talking about it. And that’s what I mean about the possibilities and opportunities being endless. And I can have input about that along the way. They have a line, “Under Armour X” that has more of a fashion sense and style wear. Its higher-end stuff that you wouldn’t really expect from them, knowing their history. That’s why I said you can’t really talk about their past, its more about their vision going forward and how things will come out as we go on for the next five years of my deal. To be a part of that process and see it grow and every year it be something new, will be fun.
So you’re going to be talking to them a lot.
It should be interesting to see what they do. You’re their main guy at this point. So you go from that huge Nike pool of guys, like you said, it’s a lot less people
That’s the part that I’m excited about too. Really telling a story, as we go along. Hopefully there will be other, bigger free agents that will come along and believe in the brand just like I did, and they can grow with me. Hopefully I won’t be the last big splash at Under Armour.