Celtics

Where Steph Curry's potential lifetime contract ranks among major endorsements

Celtics
Steph Curry sports Under Armour at the company's Jr. NBA Day. He's reportedly due for a $1 billion life partnership with Under Armour.
Eddy Matchette/NBAE, Getty Images

Steph Curry reportedly is in line to sign a lifetime contract with Under Armour worth “potentially more than $1 billion,” according to Rolling Stone. His current contract with the company, which is due to expire in 2024, is reportedly worth $20 million. 

The Warriors guard spent the first four years of his career with Nike before Under Armour swooped in. This proved to be arguably one of the best bets in sports endorsement history as Curry -- who up until that point was a promising young star with a history of injuries -- has gone on to win four NBA titles, two MVP awards and been named to eight All-Star games. 

Over the course of the past decade, he’s become the face of two dynasties -- the Warriors and Under Armour.  

While Nike reigns supreme across most sports -- especially basketball -- Under Armour boasts an impressive roster of athletes themselves. In addition to Curry, Michael Phelps, Joel Embiid, Clayton Kershaw, Misty Copeland and Tom Brady all sport the UA logo. 

Here’s a look at some of the biggest endorsement deals in sports and where Curry’s new contract could land. 

Michael Jordan, Nike

Believe it or not, but the biggest deal in all of sports almost didn’t happen, in part due to resistance from the star himself. 

 

Fresh out of North Carolina, Jordan was unabashedly loyal to Adidas. Upon the insistence of his agent, he made the trip to Oregon to hear Nike founder Phil Knight’s pitch, which promised $500,000 per year in cash for the next five years and a signature line -- an astronomical offer for 1984, especially considering he had yet to play a single minute in the NBA. Jordan still gave Adidas the opportunity to “come anywhere close.” When they didn’t, he returned to Nike and the rest was history.

A controversial design and one Rookie of the Year campaign later, the shoe achieved Hall of Fame status, exceeding even Nike’s wildest dreams. The company had originally hoped to make $3 million over four years. Instead, Air Jordans brought home $126 million in their first year on the market. 

Since signing that deal, the Air Jordan brand has ballooned to be worth $3 billion, earning Jordan $1.3 billion in the process. Jordan’s $1.7-billion net worth now includes a variety of other investments, including ownership of the Charlotte Hornets. His shoe deal, however, jump started his incredibly lucrative career and changed sports partnerships forever.  

While Jordan’s contract wasn’t technically a lifetime deal, the unique nature of the signature line and the massive success both Jordan and Nike enjoyed in the aftermath quickly evolved into a lifetime deal. 

LeBron James, Nike

Despite the massive success of Jordan’s deal, Nike waited over three decades before extending an honor anywhere near MJ’s. The chosen heir? None other than King James. 

James’ christening as the second-coming of Jordan began as a high schooler, when he signed a seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike. The 18-time All-Star later inked a lifetime contract with the company in 2015.

He was two seasons removed from back-to-back titles in Miami and fresh off a Finals loss back in Cleveland. In the months following the deal, James led the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors in epic fashion. His game 7 performance -- memorialized by an awe-inspiring block -- secured Cleveland its first NBA championship. 

Earlier this year, James joined Micheal Jordan as only the second athlete to become a billionaire. They’ve since been joined in the ranks by Tiger Woods. A common denominator between the three? All are Nike athletes. 

Christian Ronaldo, Nike 

Nike decided to keep the momentum going when they signed Ronaldo, less than a year after signing LeBron James. 

Much like James, Ronaldo’s 2016 lifetime deal is rumored to be worth around $1 billion and came at the height of his championship run. The global soccer star had just won back-to-back Champions League titles with Real Madrid and had three Ballon d’Or awards to his name. He immediately proved his value, winning both awards twice over the next two seasons after inking the lifetime deal with Nike.

 

In addition to his on-the-field success, Ronaldo has built a reputation for being an incredible influencer and brand manager. His 476 million Instagram followers trail only the social media app itself and are over 100 million ahead of the next-closest account. 

Tiger Woods, Nike

Let’s circle back to that third athlete billionaire.

Wood’s history of endorsements has been far less stable than the other members of this list, but he’s still managed to keep up. The 15-time major champion had every deal imaginable through the early aughts, including Gatorade, AT&T, Gillette and General Motors. All that came crashing down in 2009 when news broke of Woods’ multiple extramarital affairs, followed by an in-patient stay at a therapy center for sex addiction. 

Nike was essentially the only company that stuck around, choosing to retain their seven-year deal. The two parties agreed to another deal in 2013, for an undisclosed amount of money or time, but speculated to be in the range of $200 million.

The company has since stopped producing golf equipment, but maintains a strong relationship with Woods, even dropping an advertisement immediately following his fifth Masters title and major career comeback. 

Less than 10% of Woods’ billion-dollar valuation comes from his earnings. Rather, he’s built an empire and endured scandals in large part by companies like Nike.