What we all saw as an audience on the basketball court during the NBA finals was a duel between the Golden State Warriors going up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. We saw Warriors reigning league MVP Stephen Curry going up against four-time league MVP Lebron James of the Cavaliers. The Warriors won the series 4-2 to win the NBA championship.
But it was also a battle on the business side between Under Armour and Nike for sports apparel and shoes popularity as Curry is a representative of Under Armour and James a representative of Nike.
Under Armour won the battle, but the war is still in progress.
The prevailing Baltimore, Maryland based company has come a long way from a fledgling one product clothier created in 1996. 20 years later it's surpassed Adidas in market value with approximately $18 billion versus $16 billion to become second largest sports apparel maker in the United States. Something not a lot of people saw coming and management is making the right moves to ensure that the best is yet to come for Under Armour.
When Curry signed on with Under Armour in the fall of 2013, he was brought in to be the face of basketball for the company, a risky move for an unproven player riding on potential. But a fitting move for company and player that are seen as prodigies in many aspects. Curry has paid off for Under Armour in a very short amount of time in parallel to the sales of the fast growing company.
Curry, who is already among the greatest NBA shooters to ever live with his NBA playoff record of 98 three pointers made in a single postseason, has brought UA’s basketball shoe game to another level. The critics who have had very little to say in form of positive reporting about UA shoes can’t do anything but eat crow now.
What a difference a year makes in the NBA / apparel landscape. Around this time last year, Kevin Durant was fielding offers from Under Armour and Nike.
There were rumors swirling at the time that Durant would seal the deal with Under Armour with a mega multiyear deal, especially since Durant is a Maryland native. It was assumed that he would have some loyal ties locally with the deal in correlation with an alleged plan for him to sign with the Washington Wizards in the near future during the process. Durant signing with the Wizards remains to be seen, but as far as an apparel sponsorship; he ultimately stayed put with Nike.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but if Durant didn’t commit to the University of Maryland and instead went to the University of Texas, what made so many people so sure that a deal with Under Armour would go through?
As we fast forward to the present, Under Armour looks like a genius with it's risky but calculated bet on Curry.
Curry took a chance and opportunity to make a name for himself and Under Armour now has a player who may very well be the face of the NBA as James is nearing the end of his career.
With Curry’s success, the obvious plan is that other NBA star players will think long and hard about going the traditional and unoriginal way of signing with Nike and the possibility of creating a bigger brand for themselves through Under Armour.