LeBron James Still Beating Stephen Curry In Retail

LeBron James Stephen Curry
LeBron James (left) and Stephen Curry are not only battling on the court, but also in shoe sales supremacy.
AP Images

Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors have a 3-2 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but Cleveland star LeBron James has a lead over Curry in retail. However, the margin over his Western Conference counterpart could be closing.

NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell told Footwear News that Nike would sell more of James’ sneakers than Under Armour of Curry’s this year, but stated Curry’s shoes are selling out of stores much more quickly and the rate of increase in sales is much greater.

Under Armour Curry Two Gold Rings Another look at the Under Armour Curry Two “Gold Rings.” Courtesy of Under Armour

And according to Mitch Kummetz, senior analyst in active lifestyle with B. Riley & Co. LLC, over the past 20 weeks of tracking Curry and James’ shoe sales, Curry outsold James in 16 of those weeks.

Powell attributes the growing success of Curry’s footwear franchise with Under Armour to exceptional talent, an endearing personality — and, most importantly, a quality shoe.

“The final piece of the puzzle is product, and the [Curry] shoe is a great shoe. It all comes down to product in the end, and you could have a wonderful athlete, but if the shoe doesn’t work, if it isn’t attractive, then it won’t sell nearly as well,” he said.

What also helps Curry, according to Powell, is being a new, fresh face in the market, as opposed to James, who has been in the spotlight far longer. “LeBron has been with us for a while,” he said. “[James] is not an old man, but he’s been with us for a while — and Curry is garnering some of that new attention.”

Dick Johnson, CEO of Foot Locker, agrees, but also thinks Under Armour’s newness in the basketball category is a factor in the signature shoe sales discussion.

“[Curry] helps drive product because he is a fresh face, but part of it is having a new brand involved in basketball as well,” Johnson said at the FN Summit on June 7. “Under Armour — Kevin [Plank] and the team there — have certainly made some strides with their basketball product, [and] having a two-time MVP as the face of their basketball brand is important.”

But the battle between Curry and his Curry Two versus James in shoe sales isn’t solely a battle between stars; it’s a battle between the products itself. Kummetz believes James’ latest shoe, the Nike LeBron 13, isn’t performing as well at the cash wrap because people don’t think it’s a quality sneaker.

“One reason why LeBron has underperformed Curry of late is that the LeBron 13 was not considered a good shoe,” he said. “If the LeBron 14 is much better, sales will likely improve.”

Nike Basketball Royalty Collection LeBron 13 All Star The LeBron 13 of the Nike Basketball Royalty Collection. Courtesy of Nike

Despite Curry gaining on James in sales, the Cavs baller isn’t out of the race for the top signature basketball shoe on the market just yet. According to SportScanInfo data provided by B. Riley & Co. LLC, in three of the past four weeks, James has outsold Curry. However, Kummetz confirmed that the data at his disposal doesn’t include the recent Under Armour Curry 2.5 release, which when it debuted was available exclusively via Foot Locker and Under Armour.

On June 5 — before the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 110-77 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals — Footwear News reported on Curry’s growing stature in the basketball market, with Jaimee Minney, VP of marketing and public relations at Slice Intelligence, stating his sales are catching up to James.

“We saw Curry really take more of the market in April and May as it started to outpace the LeBron shoe,” she said. “There is definitely something in the water in the Bay Area driving people to the Under Armour shoe. The Curry shoe seems to have a definite affinity with the town from which the player heralds from.”

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