September 11, 2017 BY John Kim
A strong bond in the locker room is a contributing factor to the success of any sports team, especially when that room is filled with several superstar-caliber players. For the Golden State Warriors, the locker room test has some additional layers beyond basketball because Steph Curry and Kevin Durant represent opposing athletic brands – Under Armour and Nike. The basketball shoe business has been struggling over the last few years, so the competition is even fiercer because the hoops shoe market share is dwindling while the number of product is rising. Simply put, every word matters.
Under Armour’s surge in 2014-2015 threw a wrench in Nike’s dominance in the category and elite brands like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant struggled to sell shoes. Since then, UA capitalized on the success of Curry and increased output of Curry footwear, but lackluster sales of the Curry 2 and 3 models struck intense fear into a brand that at one point had all the momentum in the world. Fortunately, hopes are actually high for the Curry 4, however; Steph just won another ring and the shoe itself made a ceremonious debut during the Finals. Some call the Curry 4 the best Under Armour shoe in history.
Kevin Durant recently made some comments on Under Armour’s handicap in the recruiting world. He succinctly explained how athletic brand sponsorships with schools play a role in recruitment and that many of today’s youth prefer to play ball in Nike shoes and that burning desire to play in Under Armour doesn’t exist. That rings true in the business world because UA typically has to overpay or offer higher than Nike, Jordan, and adidas to lure top players. Steph joined Under Armour before his super-stardom was established, and that appears to be UA’s strategy – finding the diamonds in the rough. Ironically, Kevin Durant was almost signed by Under Armour in 2014; their lucrative offer forced Nike to up their bid and KD remained with the brand.
Steph, of course, disagrees with KD’s comments. In fact, the two-time MVP states that he and KD have had a conversation some time in the last two weeks regarding the comments and assured that there would be no internal problems because of their shoe rivalry. According to the Charlotte Observer, Steph actually went back and listened to the Bill Simmons podcast to understand the context of the incendiary headline and explained that KD’s opinions come from coming up the ranks in the Nike system. At the end of the day, the two respect each other on and off the court and won’t let this get in the way of the real prize – another NBA championship.
Kevin Durant’s signature shoe, the Nike KD 10, is currently in stores for $150. The Under Armour Curry 4 is set to release in October 2017.