The Golden State Warriors won another NBA game last night, which is not newsworthy in and of itself since the team has been winning at a 90-plus percent rate this year.
However, this was a tough road game against the Utah Jazz and this win makes it highly likely the Warriors -- with a string of home games ahead -- will break one of the most famous records in sports, the 72-10 season by Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1995-96.
Golden State is led, of course, by reigning MVP Stephen Curry, the baby-faced gunner whose long-range shooting is changing the balance of power in pro basketball. Clearly, The Stephen Curry Moment (click here for my take on the New York Times piece on that) is not over, as you can see by taking a quick trip to ESPN's "Nothin' But Steph" page.
As you would expect, Curry's commercial value is soaring along with his fame. This brings us to an amazing ESPN story -- "You won't believe how Nike lost Steph to Under Armour" -- that ran the other day about how, yes, the powerful, but lazy, gods of Nike basically shunned Curry as a client, with the young megastar jumping into the shoes of the under-dog Under Armour. This 5,000-plus word ESPN epic was so buzz-worthy that The Washington Post ran a story about the story.
GetReligion readers will not be surprised to learn there was a religion angle in this story, one consistent with Curry's strong and very public Christian faith.
GetReligion readers will also be shocked, shocked (not) to learn that this angle is nowhere to be found in the ESPN piece. This is rather hard to do, in light of the fact that Curry has -- since arriving at Under Armour -- been allowed to use "Charged by Belief" as the motto for his brand. Another hint: You will find a "4:13" reference on the Curry shoes, but not in the ESPN feature. Hold that thought.
So how did Nike lose Curry as a client? It's important to give ESPN tons of credit for all of the facts contained in this story, which is kind of like a hoops opera about soaring egos, talents (think LeBron James), strategic friendships, family ties and, of course, dollar signs. How big are the stakes? Check this out, from a crucial block of summary material in the ESPN piece:
On March 3, 2016, Business Insider relayed a note from Morgan Stanley analyst Jay Sole on Under Armour's business prospects. In it, Curry's potential worth to the company is placed at more than a staggering $14 billion. Sole's call on UA's stock is bearish relative to other prognosticators, but for one man's power to change everything.
His note reads, "UA's U.S. basketball shoe sales have increased over 350 percent YTD. Its Stephen Curry signature shoe business is already bigger than those of LeBron, Kobe and every other player except Michael Jordan. If Curry is the next Jordan, our call will likely be wrong."
What few fans know is the backstory of all this -- how the most electric player in a generation slipped through the grasp of the most powerful sports apparel company in the world, and how Under Armour pulled off the marketing heist of the century.
The ESPN piece is packed with amazing moments, as it becomes increasingly clear that the principalities and powers at Nike had no idea where the Curry family -- yes, the whole traditional family unit -- was coming from and what it values in life. It's also clear that Stephen Curry's actual skill-set represented a new everyman vision of hoops, one that appeals to little guys on the court, as well as the giants of yore.
I will let this long passage represent the whole:
STEPH CURRY WANTS to be both a superpower and Switzerland. He wishes to keep peace with Nike even if he is, perhaps, the greatest personal threat the world's largest sports apparel corporation has ever seen. When Nike reps come to Oracle, Curry smiles and greets them. When the rapper Drake, a Nike signee, comes to town, Steph and his wife, Ayesha, take him to the local In-N-Out.
Perhaps for these reasons, when you ask Curry about how these negotiations went down, he opts for "cute" over "cutthroat."
"My favorite story is Riley," Steph says. It's a few weeks before a final decision on the shoe contract must be made. At his agent Jeff Austin's house in Hermosa Beach, California, Curry surveys the array of shoes before him. He asks his baby daughter, "Riley, which one do you like?"
At this point, Riley is little over 1 year old. She is presented with a Nike sneaker, an Adidas sneaker and an Under Armour sneaker. She picks up "shoe one," a Nike. "Threw it over her shoulder," Curry says. "She picked up shoe two, threw it over her shoulder. She picked up the third shoe, walked over and handed it to me." It was the Under Armour Anatomix Spawn. "So I knew right then," Curry says, smiling.
Cute vs. cutthroat? Yes, and there was another C-word in the mix -- "Christian."
Of course, you will find that angle in this drama covered in alternative, "Christian" media. Here is a passage that hits the high points, including references to faith-based hooks that Curry wanted, literally, to have built into his shoes and into the marketing efforts to sell them.
"Charged by belief has a lot of meaning," Curry said, according to Rapzilla reports. "It matches with the Under Armour story, being an underdog and having to build from the ground up, and the belief [Under Armour CEO] Kevin Plank had in his vision. It's also about my faith and the belief in my game despite what other people might say."
During the Q&A session, Curry spoke in detail about his faith after one member of the media questioned him about the meaning of the 4:13 that he made sure was placed at the bottom of some of the sneakers' tongues. Inside the tongue reads, "I can do all things," which comes from Philippians 4:13 which states,"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (KJV)."
Curry spoke about his idea to include the phrase in his first signature shoe for Under Armour.
"It represents a Bible verse I wear on my shoe," Curry told the media, according to Rapzilla reports. "Philippians 4:13. It says 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' It's also my mantra, how I get up for games and why I play the way I do."
Note to ESPN: Told the media.
And that "I can do all things" biblical reference brings us full circle, back to the original 2008 Associated Press "sneaker ego" story. Back in his March Madness college days, journalists didn't seem to understand that the "I can do all things" reference hand-written on his shoes was part of a biblical passage that pointed to Christian faith, not to Curry's own talents.
Yes, sports fans, the "4:13" reference that is now built into Curry's new Under Armour shoes and it remains a key element in The Stephen Curry Moment.
The Nike gods didn't seem to get that. Neither did the talented team that produced this ESPN feature. Maybe this angle was omitted for some strange editorial reason?