It’s been a year since the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry launched his own subset company within Under Armour — Curry Brand. Ever since, Curry has both reasserted his dominance over the league after missing nearly all of the truncated 2019-20 regular season and made major steps in building the company he hopes can extend well past his playing career.
In just the last 12 months, Curry Brand has:
– Launched a new logo, inspired by Curry’s family legacy and impact on the sport.
– Debuted “Flow” technology, a foam compound bridging lighter-weight cushioning and court feel.
– Expanded beyond basketball into golf footwear and apparel, along with running and lifestyle sneakers.
– Funded the relaunch of Howard University’s Division I men’s and women’s golf programs.
– Contributed to upgrading and refurbishing the famed Rucker Park basketball court in Harlem, New York, with quarterly skills camps and activations for young athletes planned.
– Pledged to refurbish at least 20 basketball courts by 2025.
– Committed resources to more than 125 programs for young athletes around the country, with ongoing training for 15,000 coaches and 100,000 youths.
The question after the All-Star Game scrum in March of last season was simple: What fuels you? What more do you have to accomplish? The dozen-word response from the Zoom screen display name of “All Star 2” perfectly encapsulated Curry’s approach to the latter half of his career.
“I have a lot to accomplish,” Curry said firmly. “I don’t have anything to prove.
“There’s a little subtle difference there,” he added.
Last season, he had a career-high 62-point outburst in early January. Then he passed Hall of Famer Reggie Miller for second place on the league’s all-time 3-point list, behind only Ray Allen. He’d eventually close the 2020-21 season in third place in MVP voting, even though the shorthanded Warriors finished in the eighth slot for the Western Conference’s play-in seeding.
Fast-forward to this season, and Curry has picked back up where he left off, pouring in 3 after 3 while leading the Warriors to a 15-2 record. Currently at 2,918 made 3-point field goals, he’s just 56 from breaking Allen’s record of 2,973.
Curry likes to credit the Flow technology that all of his Curry Brand footwear has incorporated since it was launched.
“I know a big part of leveling up my play is coming correct with my footwear,” he said. “I’ve never had anything like it on my feet — no one has.”
While the Curry 8 and Curry 9 are the most recent models in his signature series with Under Armour, the story of their crafting and how it came to be goes much deeper.
Just after Curry won his first NBA championship in 2015, he and Under Armour ripped up his initial five-year endorsement deal from 2013, added an extra six years to the original length and made him the face of the company’s basketball business.
Locked in until 2024, the new agreement was set to make Curry the headliner of a 20-year-old company that he had only been with for only two seasons, and which had just launched his first Curry 1 signature sneaker.
“Stephen’s impact on the NBA that [2014-15] season changed how the game of basketball will be played forever, and his association with Under Armour immediately changed the trajectory of our basketball business,” said Ryan Drew, general manager of Curry Brand. “His impact on our product could be felt immediately.”
Three summers later in 2018, after Curry added the league’s first unanimous MVP season and another two titles to his accolades, amid a string of four straight NBA Finals appearances, the two sides began discussing something even grander: his own brand.
Defining a new logo
Besides the launch of new technology, Curry was also looking to unveil a new logo and brand mark during those first few 2018 conversations with Under Armour executives. That process started to pick up steam after the Charlotte, North Carolina, All-Star Game in 2019, with the final design decided later that summer.
“I thought it was great to have a fresh start,” said Curry.
Gone is the “SC30” logo with his initials and jersey number that was first seen on Curry’s product in 2014, and will continue to live on in retro footwear.
The new brand mark layers a series of elements and inspirations.
“We call the logo the ‘Splash,’ ” said Drew. “The design started by using the stroke of Stephen’s signature as the foundation for the logo. The ‘S’ clearly stands for Stephen, while the ‘C’ for Curry is his family legacy and was very important for him to include in the design. The ‘High Wing’ at the top of the logo is a reminder to always lead life and the game to fulfill his higher purpose.”
It visually comes together to represent Curry’s favorite on-court gesture, the 3-point sign after makes from deep.
“That is a huge part of my game and something that I hope I transformed on the court in terms of what it means to shoot the 3 with volume and efficiency,” Curry said.
Even the “CURRY” font used on shoeboxes, clothes and sneakers has a specific inspiration.
“All of the curves and lines [of the lettering] is the 3-point arc,” Curry said.
At one point, the team toyed with a variety of emojilike characters as logos, with Curry wearing playful golf hats in tournaments two summers ago with early concepts of his logo. Over the past year, the emphasis has been on layering in added meaning to the new mark.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about impact,” said Drew. “We are committed to the Splash logo always being a symbol for doing good.”
Beyond an annual signature shoe and a collection of hoop gear, the sublabel distinction under the Under Armour umbrella makes Curry the second active NBA player to launch his own brand with a stateside company. Michael Jordan is the other, launching Jordan Brand with Nike at the start of his “last dance” season with the Chicago Bulls in September 1997.
Jordan, then 34, has carried his namesake company for more than two decades after retiring from the NBA, generating more than $4 billion annually as a full-fledged brand. The financial success earned each year through the partnership was pivotal to Jordan purchasing the Charlotte Hornets in 2010. (Coincidentally, Curry’s father and ’90s Hornets franchise icon Dell Curry has been the team’s TV analyst for the past decade.)
Earlier this fall, while filling in as a TV correspondent at the Ryder Cup tournament held in Wisconsin, Curry sat with Jordan to discuss their shared love of golf and the competitive drive they find through the sport. Afterward, they discussed his recent launch of Curry Brand.
“It was actually interesting to think about where Jordan Brand was when MJ retired [in 1998 and 2003], and where it is now and the amazing growth that they’ve had,” Curry said. “Obviously, he is the GOAT, he’s a legend and he has paved the way for this generation to do what we’re doing.”
Jordan Brand now competes head-to-head with top athletic brands globally, setting the bar for every signature shoe business that followed.
As with Jordan Brand, there are hopes to sign athletes to “Team Curry,” with plans to include women’s and men’s basketball players and golfers, along with creative influencers, while also continuing to expand the product assortment of Curry Brand.
“He gave the encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing, and make sure it’s authentic to me,” said Curry. “I feel like that’s easier said than done, but it’s also one of those motivating factors to know that we are just getting started. The 2020-21 version of what Curry Brand is is amazing right now, but it’s just scratching the surface of what it can be, and he’s obviously proof of that.”
The comparisons between Jordan Brand and Curry Brand may be a little simplistic, however, with the better parallel perhaps being Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong brand, begun in 2003, which benefited cancer research, or the footwear brand Toms.
Curry Brand’s tagline is “Change the Game for Good.”
“When we started this conversation two-plus years ago, we saw an opportunity to push forward our vision for a better world, especially for young athletes facing challenges with access and opportunity for sport,” said Patrik Frisk, CEO of Under Armour. “We’re excited to create something new, with a legacy brand that has impact built into its bottom line, and combining purpose with the product to make a real impact on young athletes.”
From donating backboards and refurbishing courts at the Manzanita Rec Center in Oakland, California, to hosting a boys and girls showcase game on an upgraded court at Rucker Park in October, philanthropy will be a key focus. In all, there are 20 planned court donations by 2025.
“Curry Brand is all about doing good in everything that we do,” said Curry. “We all have the ability to impact the next person and to give back in some way, and that’s more important now than ever before.”
Most of Curry Brand’s efforts will be centered on providing kids with access to sports, developing programming and working with local organizations to engage boys and girls. Curry calls it “unlocking play.”
The brand’s research found that less than 30% of youths between the ages of 6 and 18 in low-income households were active in organized sports. Low-income kids are also six times more likely to stop playing sports because of financial costs.
“Stephen has a great saying: ‘Talent is everywhere. Opportunity isn’t,’ ” Drew said.
The brand is partnering with the Positive Coaching Alliance to provide training and resources to all coaches in the Oakland Unified School District and Oakland’s Parks and Recreation Department. Parents, athletes and community leaders will also be integrated into the program’s training.
By 2025, Curry Brand is looking to support 125 programs for young athletes, with ongoing training for a web of 15,000 coaches and resources reaching 100,000 youths.
“So much of who I am as a person and a leader today is because of playing sports as a kid,” Curry said.
Developing Flow technology
Early on, an absolute must for Curry was to launch his new brand with new technology. He had typically worn foam cushioning setups in his previous signature shoes, with slight updates from year to year. The line was admittedly not known for cushioning innovation.
Enter “Flow,” which debuted last fall in the Curry 8 and continues to be the platform that the current Curry 9 sits on.
“We call it a unicorn foam,” said Tom Luedecke, creative director of footwear innovation at Under Armour.
While the standard timeline for designing a signature shoe is 14 to 18 months, Flow had been in the works for more than three years in partnership with the Dow Chemical Co. to get to the right formulation.
“When we saw how sticky this material was on hardwood, we knew this was going to be groundbreaking,” said Fred Dojan, Under Armour vice president of footwear development innovation.
Originally termed “Unisole” internally during the exploration phase, the foam is one solid piece for the outsole. Unlike all other basketball shoes, the one-piece construction means there’s no rubber on the bottom, which saves considerable weight. With a wavy pattern engineered into the foam slab, the material is shaped and carved to provide softness for cushioning and achieves top-tier stickiness and hold for grip.
Former Curry Brand general manager David Bond, an industry veteran who helmed the development of the technology alongside Luedecke and Dojan, coined it “Flow” to highlight the smooth ride, but also the concept of “flow state,” or being in the flow during a game.
The newest edition, the Curry 9, carries over much of the same elements of Flow from last season’s sneaker.
“We wanted to bring the best of what that UA Flow technology was and that innovative platform of obsoleting rubber, getting rid of some weight and keeping the traction and the cushioning there,” said Curry. “[The 9 is] kind of dialing in the ride that Flow is, and it’s a different evolution of what that feels like.”
While the Curry 8 launched with simple and clean colorways a year ago, the new Curry 9 launches this month as part of a full footwear and apparel collaboration with Sesame Street.
“It has a lot more character than the 8, and I think that’s something that we wanted to hit home with the 9,” said Curry.
Featuring seven colorways tied to characters from the children’s show, Curry has already been wearing pairs from the pack this season, such as the vivid yellow and pink Big Bird pair, the bright red edition inspired by Elmo, and the blue and black Cookie Monster pair complete with a furry tongue.
“They bring joy, fun and laughter to everything, and there’s a lot of similarities to the way I play and what I try to do on and off the court,” said Curry. “There’s also just a commitment to the community, uplifting people from all different walks of life and celebrating our diversity and our uniqueness. It’s a cool, outside-the-box way of looking at it from a colorway perspective.”
Curry’s annual trek to Under Armour’s Baltimore headquarters is often during an off day when the Warriors are in nearby Washington to face the Wizards. The brand’s innovation team being based in Portland, Oregon, allowed for more frequent visits throughout the development process of Flow, and a series of high-speed camera sessions with Curry that ultimately validated the performance of the new material.
After three years of development, spanning 13 rounds of wear testing, including 10 rounds of biomechanical tests and assigning 35 elite college and high school players to log more than 1,500 hours of in-game and drill-based action, Flow technology was good to go.
“We pushed so hard to make this happen,” said Curry. “The UA team moved mountains to bring this innovation to life. I can’t tell you how good this feels on my feet and I’m hyped to wear it for years to come.”
Expanding the brand ahead
Though the brand will be rooted in hoops, there’s a plan to extend the label beyond the hardwood.
“Curry Brand will feature footwear, apparel and accessories across multiple categories, including basketball and golf, with continued category expansion in future seasons such as running and women’s,” Frisk said.
Last week, the brand launched its first running shoe, the Curry Flow Go. The knit upper features four dots along the side of the shoe, a nod to his wife Ayesha and their three children. Future seasons of Curry Golf will incorporate hybrid course-geared turf footwear drafting off of his on-court sneaker.
For Curry, incorporating Flow technology into nearly all of his products will be emphasized, with the cushioning and traction dual platform beginning to appear in altered visual executions in future designs. Long term, the brand hopes that “Curry” and “Flow” can share an association, just as other athletes have long held with their key technologies.
Besides further establishing the logo, the new technology and the “do good” mantra, the Curry Brand has two collegiate partnerships lined up. Davidson College, outside of Charlotte, is wearing uniforms featuring the new Splash logo, and is often first to wear upcoming new colorways.
As part of an ongoing six-year sponsorship pledge for the Howard University golf team, Curry also helped to launch the first Division I men’s and women’s golf teams in the historically Black college’s history. The Bison had fielded a Division II team that was disbanded in the late 1970s.
The reported seven-figure donation will help fund scholarships, provide equipment and, of course, outfit the team with Curry Brand golf apparel and shoes. Both the men’s and women’s teams wore “Splash” logo Howard polos throughout their fall season.
“It’s amazing, man,” said Curry. “They’re just getting their feet wet in competition, playing against some really good golf programs across the country. We want to be able to make Howard a marquee golf destination and a marquee golf university — to know that they’re rocking Curry Brand and they’re basically walking examples of the impact that we’re able to have.”
With specific impact targets already in place as benchmarks by 2025, Curry Brand hopes to extend its good even further into the decade.
“Ultimately our measure of impact is to ensure that we are breaking down barriers for young athletes to have access to sports — starting in Oakland and growing from there,” said Frisk. “With the expansion of product — while Stephen is playing basketball professionally or after his NBA career ends — we will expand the focus of the giveback appropriately to improve access to all sports over time.”
With the Warriors off to a strong start and individual milestones nearing like his eventual breaking of the league’s 3-point record, Curry is also able to look ahead to what Curry Brand can eventually become.
“It’s been great to understand the opportunity that we have in front of us to reimagine what we’ve been doing, from a product perspective and apparel perspective, but also how our mission has permeated through everything that we do,” said Curry. “The safe places that we’re able to provide for communities and places for kids to go play. Programming that we’re doing in these locations and giving coaches and community leaders access to resources that they need to impact the next generation. Sports have taught me so much, and now Curry Brand is the expression of driving that mission home with everything that I do.”