There’s chaos inside of the Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto.
It’s All-Star Weekend and NBA players have been periodically dropping by Foot Lockers throughout the city in order to greet fans, sign autographs and satisfy time-commitment clauses in their respective sneaker deals. But this appearance is different than others that have been going on over the past couple days.
On this 9-degree afternoon in Toronto, the league’s hottest player, Stephen Curry, is in the house. The reigning MVP is having more than just a stellar season. He’s on target to beat his personal best and the NBA record for three-point makes in a single season. His Golden State Warriors are on pace to tie (or at least get close to) the record for regular season wins.
Even Curry’s sneaker sponsor, Under Armour, is hitting new heights. It has the current MVP in every major sport on its roster of athletes. The brand’s revenue shot up 95 percent, which is also a boon for the player’s wallet. Curry is signed on to endorse UA through 2024, and he also owns an undisclosed stake in the company as part of his deal. Industry analysts say the brand's sales boom is directly related to Curry’s spike in popularity.
The crowd at Yorkdale is an indication of just how rabid his fan base is in 2016. A mob, verging on riot status, assembles outside the closed Foot Locker store’s gates. The second-leading vote getter in this year’s game hasn’t arrived yet, but security, UA brass, Foot Locker executives and this writer fear the crowd will rush the door as soon as they get a glimpse of the baby-faced assassin.
Curry is scheduled to do only three media interviews inside the store, one of which is for Sole Collector. Under Armour’s PR person tells me I have five minutes, and by five minutes, she means five minutes before Steph and his flank of security ferry him to the public appearance he’s scheduled to do—an impromptu 3 point shootout with teen basketball players in the middle of the mall to promote the “All-Star” and “Energy” colorways of his signature sneaker.
This is what we talked about.
I looked at the best-selling sneakers from over holidays, and you had four out of the top 20. Why do you think you’re selling so many shoes right now?
Stephen Curry: Obviously, it starts from what I do on the court and trying to inspire young people with how I play. I have a passion for the game. The love I have for the game inspires people. Then it comes down to great product. Nobody gives Under Armour credit. We’re the new kid on the block when it comes to basketball, but we’re gaining that credibility. That fever throughout the sneaker crowd is growing. We’re making some good shoes that start with performance. It’s a good recipe and we’re just getting started. It’s slowly building. We’re at the Curry 2 and we’re already talking Curry 5 right now.
One of the knocks on your shoe is that it doesn’t have that lifestyle appeal off of the basketball court. What’s your take on that? Is that something you are thinking about?
SC: For sure. It’s going to start with Curry 3. It’s going to have certain materials that aren’t specifically for performance. It’ll have a more lifestyle feel and be something you could wear on the court to hoop, but you can also throw on a pair of jeans and look good in them. So, we’re trying to address that. That’s how we wanted to start the line—make a shoe to play basketball in and then take it to the next level. If you want to be a part of what I do on the floor, this is where it starts, and then branch out into lifestyle from there. It takes time.
If you could pick a creative or artistic person to give your sneaker that street appeal, who would you want to see them wearing them?
SC: That’s a good question. I haven’t really thought about it like that, but doing a collab or something with somebody outside of the basketball world would definitely be appealing. We might have to do some research and see who that fit might be. I haven’t thought about it much. I’m so hands-on and wrapped up in the design of my shoes, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Speaking of collaborating, Kanye West said he wanted you to be the first Yeezy athlete. What’s your response to that?
SC: If he wants to come to team UA, then I’ll make that move. I’ll be here waiting for him. But there’s no way that’s going to happen.
Fair enough. Have you seen this video of LeBron James saying he doesn’t know what Under Armour is?
SC: Oh, he knows. That’s why he said that. It just shows the progress we’re making and the momentum that we’re picking up in the sneaker world. We’re a major player in the basketball business when it comes to footwear. People have to be taking notice.
As Curry wraps up his allotted media time, the swarm outside the gates grows more restless. “Curry. Curry. Curry.” chants starts. Followed by an “MVP. MVP. MVP.” chant that almost drowns out the audio of the Canadian sports network that Curry is in the middle of doing an interview with.
Against the suggestion of security to go through the back tunnel exit, Curry doesn’t want to disappoint his fans. He surrounds himself with a human shield of four bodyguards in an attempt to make it through the front gates. The anxiety written on his wife Ayesha’s face is palpable.
Steph doesn’t even get a foot past the gate before people charge towards him. I spot grown men in the crowd in tears. You would’ve thought that Michael Jackson had been resurrected among us. It’s the most rockstar shit I’ve seen all weekend.
Curry turns his whip thin 6’ 3” frame around with a facial expression that connoted, “My bad.” Back tunnel exit it is.