Curry makes it clear that he’s talked with Durant about this and that it is not an issue within the Warriors’ locker room.
In a recent podcast with Bill Simmons for The Ringer, Kevin Durant offered his thoughts about why so many talented high school basketball players from Durant’s of the DMV (the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area) leave to play college basketball rather than play for Maryland.
"Nobody wants to play in Under Armours, I'm sorry. The top kids don’t because they all play Nike [...] Everybody knows that. They just don’t want to say nothing."
This normally wouldn’t be something that registered on the Richter scale when it comes to NBA news were it not for the fact that Durant’s teammate, Stephen Curry, happens to be Under Armour’s marquee athlete. Simmons himself even acknowledged that during the interview, asking Durant, “Have you talked to Steph about this?”
After being picked up by many of the sports news aggregating sites and blogs, Durant’s comments officially became “a thing.”
In the weeks following Durant’s podcast, Curry did not offer any public comments in response. But with Curry’s hometown Carolina Panthers in the Bay Area to play the San Francisco 49ers, he addressed the issue in an interview with the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler.
“This is nothing that is going to put a wrench in the locker room [...] “I told him that he has a certain opinion based on his experience growing up in the Nike business. What that means when it comes to the competition among shoe brands and universities and the whole grassroots system and whatnot – he’s entitled to that opinion obviously. ... But when it comes to what I’m trying to do with Under Armour, and what the Curry brand means and what Under Armour basketball means, that statement does not ring true at all.”
Curry very quickly and deftly squashed this issue, talking to Durant about it and making it clear to the basketball-watching public that this would not be an issue for the Warriors. Some would obviously want to make Durant’s comments into the thing that, to use Curry’s words, “break[s] up the locker room.” But when one pauses and takes a moment to think about what Durant actually said, it is a great deal of sound and fury signifying nothing.
Under Armour is a relatively new brand on the basketball shoe scene. Thus it does make sense that elite high school basketball players might prefer schools affiliated with a more time-tested brand like Nike. Nike culture is so dominant, and has been dominant for so many years, that it might even be an unconscious choice these players are making. While Under Armour is making big gains and becoming a real player in the world of basketball shoes, they are still new and still have a ways to go before they can catch up to Nike.
Curry himself acknowledged this in the Observer interview in a way, saying, “Where we were four years ago, and where we are now – you can’t tell me nobody wants to wear our shoes. I know for a fact that they do.” It’s a process and it takes time to compete with Nike, the gold standard of shoe companies. That’s what Durant seemed to be saying and how Curry, based on the comments he gave in that interview, understood his teammate’s comments as well.
This won’t do anything to quiet those who want to see the Warriors tear each other apart or Warriors fans who believe you have to pick and be on Steph’s side or KD’s side*.
* As one who is from the Bay Area and grew up as a Warriors fan but who went to the University of Texas for college and was there during Durant’s year in Austin, I feel as though I am someone uniquely qualified to address these issues and who can toe the line on the Steph-KD “debate” within Warriors fandom.
But what Durant was actually saying was far more innocuous than what those who reported on it would have you believe. Curry’s comments on Sunday display the levelheadedness that make him such a great superstar and role model and show that he understood what Durant was saying, even if he didn’t agree.