Can Steph Curry Be Under Armour's Michael Jordan?

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In the summer of 2013, Stephen Curry attended a meeting with Nike NKE executives. His contract with the basketball shoe giant was up, and the industry's leading brand planned on pitching him to re-sign. Instead, the basketball shoe world changed forever.

It was at this meeting that Curry decided he wouldn't be rejoining Nike. He and his father Dell, a former NBA player, watched as one Nike official mistakenly refered to Stephen as "Steph-on." They both even kept a straight face as one of the powerpoint slides had Kevin Durant's name on it by accident.

Nevertheless, Stephen made up his mind to leave the brand that had signed him out of college. Curry, who attended tiny Davidson College, was used to not being recruited, but now, on the brink of NBA stardom, he had to be wanted.

Under Armour UA jumped at the opportunity to sign Curry. The brand known for its athletic clothing, not its basketball shoes, offered Curry a $4 million per year deal. Nike passed on matching its competitor's price.

This fall, after winning the NBA MVP Award along with his first Championship, Curry re-signed with Under Armour through 2024. His line of Curry signature shoes are now the top-selling signature brand of any active NBA player.

This season, Curry and his Golden State Warriors team set the single-season record for wins, beating Michael Jordan's 1995 Chicago Bulls team for the number one spot. Nevertheless, Curry has a long way to go if he wants his Curry line to match that of the Nike-owned Jordan brand.

After Under Armour released its latest earnings report , however, that possibilty no longer seems totally far-fetched. Many investors are beginning to seriously ask: Can Steph Curry be as big for Under Armour as Michael Jordan is for Nike?

New Numbers

Under Armour reported first-quarter fiscal 2016 earnings of 4 cents, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 2 cents. The real story, however, lies in the company's revenues. Total revenues came in at $1,047.7 million, up 30.2% year-over-year and beating our consensus estimate of $1,042 million.

Under Armour's largest category, Apparel, saw sales jump 20%. Its Accessories category gained 26.2%, and Licensing was up 14.7%. Its Footwear division, led by the Curry shoe line, soared a staggering 64.2%.

The company updated its 2016 forecast and now expects revenues of $5 billion for the year, which would represent growth of 26% over 2015. Previously, Under Armour guided for $4.95 billion in revenue for 2016.

Catching Michael

In March, Business Insider reported on a note sent by Morgan Stanley analyst Jay Sole, who was bearish on Under Armour. Sole called for a price target that was nearly $20 below what UA was trading for at the tim.

In that same note, however, Sole praised Curry. He put Curry's potential worth to Under Armour at $14 billion and said, "If Curry is the next Jordan, our call will likely be wrong."

Curry is the biggest name in the NBA right now. This probably hurts to hear if you are Lebron James or Nike, who just signed James to a lifetime deal that some think is worth nearly $1 billion. But it's the truth.

From a marketing standpoint, Curry's success only adds fuel to the fire that is his popularity. He's small. He had been doubted his whole career. He is relatable. He had revolutionized the three-point shot, and thus the game of basketball.

The problem with asking whether or not Curry will be as big as Jordan, however, is the sheer magnitude of that question. In 2014, over a decade after leaving the NBA for good, Jordan made $100 million from Nike. Jordan's annual shoe sales are over $2.6 billion, or about $650 million per quarter. Under Armour's total shoe sales in its biggest quarter yet are about a third of that.

Even still, Curry has really only been in the worldwide spotlight for two seasons now. He is the favorite to receive the MVP Award again this year, and his team is the favorite to defend their title. It is undeniable that Under Armour got on the Curry wave at the right time. Now we'll all see just how big it grows.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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