Why Kevin Durant’s Move To The Warriors Could Be Bad For Under Armour

Kevin Durant Nike KD8
Kevin Durant in the Nike KD8.
AP Images

It has been more than 24 hours since NBA forward Kevin Durant made the collective heart of Oklahoma City Thunder fans skip a beat, announcing he would leave his first-and-only NBA team to join the Golden State Warriors, the defending Western Conference champions. And the news is still trending.

From the historic NBA lockout of 2011 to the desire — on the part of Durant — to be a part of an NBA super team, speculation regarding the reasons behind Durant’s shocking exit has run rampant as NBA fans search for and even drum up possible explanations.

While conjecture about the impact on the future success of both the Thunder and the Warriors could go on for months before there are any definite answers, there are other residual consequences of Durant’s move that warrant analysis.

Stephen Curry is arguably the Golden State Warriors brightest and buzziest star, and his appeal has been the driving force behind Under Armour’s successful foray into the basketball shoe arena. Case in point: The launch of Curry’s signature shoe was largely credited with boosting the brand’s footwear revenues by 57 percent in 2015, to $678 million.

Stephen Curry Warriors Western Conference Finals Stephen Curry celebrates the Golden State Warriors’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. AP Images.

Meanwhile, Durant has his own beloved signature shoe line with Nike Inc.: The KD 1 launched in 2009, and the latest version, the KD 9, was unveiled earlier this year.

According to Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, Durant’s move could be a win for the player and Nike in terms of potential shoe sales.

I would expect [Durant] to sell more shoes due to the larger market [in the San Francisco Bay Area], but the headwinds reported by retailers and brands around basketball may be too great,” Powell noted, referring to a slowdown in basketball shoe sales during the past year.

And even if sales of Durant’s signature line were to slip, Nike has a host of marquee NBA stars on its roster — including Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — while Curry has been carrying Under Armour’s basketball business on his back since 2015.

During the past year, the Golden State Warriors guard and two-time MVP has had to share some of the limelight with forward Draymond Green and guard Klay Thompson. But now that there is another superstar athlete (and the winner of the 2013-14 NBA MVP) on the roster, will Curry’s star power begin to diminish? And what’s more, will a dimming of Curry’s light reflect on Under Armour’s thriving basketball business?

That question can’t truly be answered until the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, which begins in late October. But for now, Powell seems unconvinced that there will be a major sales impact for Under Armour.

I don’t see Durant’s arrival as a having much of an impact on Curry sales — [I see] the broader reported slowdown in marquee sales [having] an impact,” Powell said. “Stars are stars wherever they play. I don’t see a material change there.”