The Golden State Warriors clinched the opening game of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, but an off-court rivalry between Nike and Under Armour may have LeBron James and Stephen Curry on their toes.
It’s been a year since the two players last faced each other in the 2015 NBA Finals, back when James’ sneaker line generated 10 times as much as the Curry shoes. Since then, sales of Curry’s shoes have grown , according to Slice Intelligence, an e-commerce analytics firm. While online sales of basketball shoes are flat, tension is heating up between James’ 13-year-long Nike partnership and Curry’s three-year-old Under Armour partnership as last month’s sales of the Curry shoes grew eightfold since May 2015.
“As this season heated up, we really saw Curry fever,” said Jaimee Minney, VP of marketing and public relations at Slice Intelligence. “We saw Curry really take more of the market in April and May as it started to outpace the LeBron shoe.”
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Minney said the retail analytics agency didn’t see the same fan loyalty follow James’ shoes. Curry’s shoe did especially well in the San Francisco Bay Area, while the Cleveland market did not make as much noise for James. Fans also helped Curry keep “Stephmoji” on top of the best-selling paid apps in the Apple Store since its release on Wednesday.
“There is definitely something in the water in the Bay Area driving people to the Under Armour shoe,” Minney said. “The Curry shoe seems to have a definite affinity with the town from which the player heralds from.”
Villa stocks more of James’ shoes, given its greater variety, but the retailer’s Digital Lead Damian Rodriguez said sales have been slowing down. Although James’ sneaker line has more brand recognition, Rodriguez said more people buy the Curry special edition shoes and they frequently sell out.
“It says a lot when a mature line like LeBron’s starts getting compared to a newer line like Curry’s,” Rodriguez said.
The Under Armour Curry Two “Gold Rings” will be out on Saturday, retailing for $130. The shoe, according to the brand, celebrates the 2015 season, during which the franchise won the NBA championship for the first time in 40 years.