Nike, the biggest sports brand in the world, is usually know for excellence in everything they get involved in. From Jordan shoes to their own shoes and clothing lines in every sport, CEO Phil Knight has something to be proud of.
Everyone makes mistakes, and this will probably be Nike’s biggest to date as a company.
As we all know, Stephen Curry has been signed with Under Armour since 2013 ever his college contract expired that year. He has now taken over the Under Amour company with his own line of basketball shoes as well as clothing.
Nike had the opportunity to sign him to the type of contract that he now has with Under Armour and let’s say the pitch to Curry didn’t go as planned.
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 Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”
It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured 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.
In the meeting, according to Dell, there was never a strong indication that Steph would become a signature athlete with Nike. “They have certain tiers of athletes,” Dell says. “They have Kobe, LeBron and Durant, who were their three main guys. If he signed back with them, we’re on that second tier.”
In 2013, Nike retained Curry’s matching rights, analogous to how NBA restricted free agency works. They still could have signed Curry, regardless of his preferences. According to a Sept. 16, 2015, report from ESPN’s Darren Rovell, “Nike failed to match a deal worth less than $4 million a year.”
[Under Armour executive Kris] Stone characterizes the decision as, “If you don’t want to be here, then don’t be here.” Athletes are expected to want Nike, to have always wanted Nike from the time they were kids.
First things first, “failed to match a deal worth less than $4 million a year” — there couldn’t be a worse mistake made by Nike. Nike has matched offers over $250 million dollars to guys like Kevin Durant. Nike has given $100+ million dollar contracts to guys in other sports like Rory McIlroy in golf, a sport that has so much more parity as far as great players in the game versus the game of basketball.
Nike has lost my respect a little bit for how they went about this process. It seems like they went into it thinking it was going to be a cake walk and nothing would stop Curry from re-signing. They didn’t really go over how they would proceed to successfully get Curry and were assuming he would just go ahead and sign on the dotted line.
Well, they are stuck without him now, but regardless of who Under Armour signs besides the two biggest names in their sports (Stephen Curry and Jordan Spieth), Nike will still remain king.