Under Armour is currently reaping the benefits of having Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and golfer Jordan Spieth as its most notable endorsers.
However, had Nike done things differently back in the summer of 2013, Curry may still be sporting the swoosh. But Under Armour isn’t complaining about how things went—its deal with the Warriors star has worked out better than it probably ever could have imagined.
According to ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Curry moved on from Nike for a number of reasons. Strauss, with quotes from both Steph and his father, Dell, recently detailed what went into Curry’s decision.
The takeaway: There wasn’t enough respect being shown to the player.
It certainly didn’t help Nike that the pitch meeting—one at which “famed Nike power broker” Lynn Merritt was not present—had some glaring errors, per Strauss:
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. ‘I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.’
It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured [Oklahoma City Thunder forward] 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.
Stuff like that may seem minor, but not paying attention to details can turn some people off. And not getting names right is tough to overcome. But according to Strauss, there were more factors that went into Curry’s move to Under Armour.
Nike was willing to give young players like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving and New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis their own company-sponsored camps for promising young athletes. After going to Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul’s camps growing up, Curry wanted to be able to host camps of his own—but that wasn’t part of the deal offered to him. It was also clear to the Currys that Nike didn’t consider Steph to be on the same level as the Cavs’ Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and Durant. Again, not the type of respect he felt he deserved.
Under Armour was willing to give him what Nike was not, so Curry decided to move on. And the rest is history.
If Nike got a do-over with what it knows now, there is no doubt that it would give Curry whatever he wanted. The Warriors superstar has made three consecutive All-Star teams, won the 2014-15 NBA MVP award—and is all but a lock to repeat—and led his team to a championship last season. Any company would love to have an athlete with that resume on its side—but at the time of the negotiations, Curry had just started putting things together.
There are some deals that a company or team will always regret not getting done. For Nike, it will always kick itself for not doing what it took to lock up a player who turned out to be an all-time great.