10 shoes down: Stephen Curry reflects on his signature sneakers
Golden State Warriors star breaks down each model in his Under Armour series
With his new contract extension with Under Armour signed, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is thinking about how to build his Curry Brand of performance basketball sneakers while extending into new lanes in the future.
But he took time recently to reflect on each of his 10 signature models, touching on the on-court moments and details associated with each pair.
When Curry left Nike to sign with Under Armour in 2013, the brand had been making basketball shoes for less than five years. Under Armour guaranteed Curry a signature sneaker as part of the pact. Of the NBA’s 22 current signature shoe lines, the Curry series has become one of the industry’s top five highest-grossing signature businesses annually.
He’s seen the platform that signature model has provided, from colorways that celebrate the people closest to him, telling stories that highlight the Bay Area, or connecting with fans around the globe. In some situations, he’s redirected his sneaker revenue to causes he believes in.
Approximately 100 NBA players have received their own signature shoe in league history.
“As a fan of basketball, you watch a lot of different players, but I think it jumps off the screen different and there’s a certain attachment to the guys that were wearing their own signature sneakers,” he said. “Obviously, Jordan set the bar for that, but across the line, Penny Hardaway, [Stephon] Marbury, Vince [Carter] with the Shox – you wanted to wear their shoes because you could either emulate what they were doing or you could feel a part of their journey.
“There’s just a different level of attention that you paid to them, both on and off the court,” he said. “I always wanted to know what it’d be like to have your name on a shoe, your logo and be able to create different colorways.”
If getting a signature sneaker is relatively rare, hitting the double-digit mark for models is even more unusual. Curry is just the ninth player to hit that threshold. His new long-term extension with Under Armour will extend his signature series beyond his Hall of Fame career.
Here’s a rundown of the models in Curry’s journey with Under Armour.
No matter the design, rollout or sales results, every player has a soft spot for their first signature model.
“To me, it’s iconic just because when you look at the Curry 1, it’s something that I hadn’t really seen before,” said Curry. “You got the dimples on the side in the upper, and you have the Charged Foam in the bottom. It was the first time you saw the SC30 logo and it was exciting just knowing that there were opportunities to put certain colors and themes together that were close to my heart and could celebrate major milestones throughout that year and major moments.”
Early on, a blue and yellow look celebrated “Dub Nation.” A purple and teal edition told the story of “Father 2 Son” and served as a tribute to his father Dell’s days with the Charlotte Hornets. A grey and red pair inspired by Davidson College was launched in March 2015 as a nod to Curry’s alma mater.
The brand gambled with a graphic-laden white, black and gold edition for him to wear if he won either MVP or an NBA title.
He won both.
“Winning your first championship in your own shoe, it was a special, special opportunity,” said Curry. “I knew going into it, it would be predicated on the success of what I was doing on the court. But to get your feet wet in the signature game, it meant a lot.”
Following up on success is no easy task. While the Curry 2 became one of the series’ bestsellers, and Curry won MVP while wearing a pair, the Warriors came up short in the 2016 NBA Finals after their record-breaking 73-9 regular season.
“You always have the opportunity to come back and rewrite your story, and allow the loss to dictate the comeback,” he says now. “Really understand that failure is a part of the process. Not everything is a smooth ride, not everything is about the celebration and the success. It’s about what you learn through the losses.”
In many ways, the launch colorway of the Curry 2 spoke to that workmanlike approach.
The Curry 2 was launched in a colorway dubbed “Iron Sharpens Iron” with a grey base and a vivid orange burst along the midsole. “There’s a biblical reference, and also just a mantra that nothing that I do, and nothing that anyone does special in this world, you do on your own.”
The shoe was released in more than a dozen colorways throughout the season, each with the Speedform fit system and Charged Foam cushioning that Curry liked on the court.
“For a lot of people, this was one of the most comfortable shoes they’ve worn, which was pretty dope to think about,” he said. “You drop the 1, and there’s a lot of excitement because it’s the first one, and then you come out with the 2, and make the experience and the ride even more comfortable, more plush and more durable out there on the court. That speaks volumes right there.”
When he thinks back to the Curry 2, colorways such as the black and gold version celebrating his second MVP award come to mind. But it’s still the launch colorway and the message behind it that he reflects on most.
“That ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ mentality is something that I live by,” he said. “You have a visual representation of it here. You have to go through those experiences in order to reap the benefit. [Having that] accountability with your teammates and your coaches, we all uplift each other.”
By the time his third model was set to launch during the fall of 2016, there had been four months of noise across TV, talk radio and social media. The shoe’s commercial barely featured the shoe. Instead, it faced the narrative head-on.
“73 and 9,” a teen said to Curry. “And no ring?”
“The ‘Make That Old’ campaign [was created around] the idea that we obviously were coming off a tough loss in the 2016 Finals,” said Curry. “For me, it was inspiring going into that next season with a different motivation to get back on top of the mountain.”
The Curry 3 sneaker, with a bulkier midsole and heel, didn’t have the retail success of the first two models. Even so, Curry rolled out several coveted colorways and exclusives. None were more meaningful than the red, white and blue pair worn on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring outgoing President Barack Obama’s “Back 2 Back” terms in office. The shoe was adorned with a presidential seal and the No. 44 on the tongue.
“Anytime you can pay homage and respect to what President Barack Obama stands for, the inspiration he gave our country, his presidency and the progress that we made in those eight years, celebrating ‘44’ and all of his triumphs in that shoe, it’s kind of surreal, still to this day,” said Curry.
Originally, the Curry 4 was slated to launch during the fall of 2017. But he was ready to move on from the third silhouette and debuted his next model five months early.
“I was wearing the 3s all year, then the 3Zeroes during the playoffs, and then to come out in the Finals for Game 1 in that classic, crispy white with a little gold accents. I just remember the arena was on fire,” he said. “I walked out and put my foot on the bench and there was a lot of bumping and whispers going on around me – ‘What’s he wearing? What is that?’ And it was the 4s … it was kind of an iconic moment.”
With a knit upper, sleek stance and more refined colorways along the way, the Curry 4 was a noted leap for the line.
“It was probably the first time that I really was comfortable wearing it on or off the court,” said Curry.
As he capped the 2016-17 season by winning his second championship, he returned to the commercial slogan that kicked off the season by wearing a shirt at the Warriors’ celebratory parade that simply read, “Made That Old.”
He sported a pair of black knit and gleaming trophy gold Curry 4s.
Building off of the unexpected unveiling of the Curry 4s, Curry looked to create a moment around his next shoe debut. He broke out the Curry 5 for the first time on day he turned 30, with “Pi Day” details embedded into the sneaker to tie back to his March 14 birthday. For the first time, the shoe featured a low cut.
“Even from when I was a kid, having a low top was always my natural vibe, and this was as close as I’d ever gotten to a true low top,” he said. “Even though I still had my ankle braces on, which hopefully will let me play for as long as I want to play. To have a low top and a little different silhouette on the court, for me, was a fun attempt at bringing that new style to the line.”
As the Warriors looked to make another Finals run, Curry donned simple white and gold or black, white and gold colorways along the way.
“The 5 was our shot at trying to make that right for prime time to go and try to win another championship in 2018,” he said. “Another amazing milestone and moment in my career.”
With the Warriors set to move into the Chase Center at the start of the 2019-2020 NBA season, Curry knew how he wanted to close out the franchise’s 47-year run in the East Bay.
“[We wanted to] bring a spotlight to Oakland and to the city that supported me for my first 10 years – a city that we won three championships in – and bringing in all of those memories of the culture and pride of Oakland into this line,” he said.
A theme dubbed “Ten In The Town” carried throughout the season, with colorways inspired by Oakland. From Curry’s favorite landmarks and restaurants to streets and early memories, the sneaker captured the essence of his time in “The Town.” The sneaker featured patterns drafted from the architecture of Oracle Arena, or tree branch graphics from the oak tree found on the city’s street signs.
In the 2019 playoffs, Curry switched between a black and yellow colorway that read “Oakland” along the midsole and a gleaming red and neon “Roaracle” pair that highlighted the home arena’s raucous fans. With the league dropping its old color rules and players now free to wear shoes of any hue, the “Roaracle” pair took on tones inspired by the highest levels of a decibel scale.
Once again, the shoe sported a low-top stance with wearability in mind.
“From the 4 on, we always had in mind the aesthetic, the silhouette and the design of trying to make it as dynamic and versatile as possible so that you can rock it in a lot of different settings and not just on the court,” said Curry. “That knit upper allows you to play around with some of those looks. I think we had some pretty cool ways to design colorways with the blocking on this one.”
The Curry 7 carried on the low and sleek approach of the past two models, but the colors became louder, as floods of neon took over the design.
“Unfortunately, I was hurt for most of the season,” said Curry. “But there were enough moments that we got to highlight.”
Curry appeared in only five regular season games in 2020 after breaking his left hand during the Warriors’ fourth game. When he returned four months later, he donned a mismatched neon green and neon orange set of the “Sour Patch Kids” Curry 7 at home.
“It gave me a lot of energy to put on and go out there and hoop,” he said.
Just days later, the coronavirus pandemic halted the remainder of the team’s 2019-2020 season, meaning the Curry 7 received the least court time of any of his sneakers.
“This is a sneaky one, and one of my favorite ones in the line, with everything we put into it,” said Curry. The shoes were equipped with Under Armour technology geared toward cushioning, and HOVR, which reduced the shoe’s weight. “One, how great the shoe performed, with HOVR on the top, Micro G on the bottom and the nice plate in between. It had a nice court feel and ride from heel to toe.”
The shoe also incorporated references to his newborn son Canon, and his two daughters Ryan and Riley, with animal artwork representing each child, added to the heel tab of the Curry 7.
“That’s huge, anytime I get to highlight my family and what they mean to me,” he said. “The fact that I could highlight all three kids was definitely special that I incorporated my family. Your shoe is a representation of who you are, through and through. The butterfly, the unicorn and the wolf, they’re all special for how unique they are and their different personalities. Putting that on a shoe means a lot.”
While the injury and quarantine measures limited his time on the court, the time away allowed Curry ample time to work remotely with his creative team, which was in Baltimore, on the creation of the Curry Brand.
The new namesake brand was launched by Under Armour. Its formation allowed him to form his own roster of athletes and to create products in different categories, all of which would bear his logo. Those products will include his signature sneakers. The first seven were released as Under Armour-only. Starting with the Curry 8, the Curry Brand would lead the development of his shoes with support from the parent company.
“There was a quiet time through all of that, where we were working hard to put together an amazing launch of a brand,” he recalled. “It was the namesake and something that stands on the shoulders of the amazing partnership that I’ve had with Under Armour, at that time, for eight years.”
A new “Splash” logo was created, weaving together his signature “S” and “C” initials with a celebratory three-point hand sign for which he’s known. The Curry 8 also debuted a cushioning platform.
“It’s special to know that not only is the brand launching but [after] the energy and the experience that we had with the Curry 1 through 7, now we have an opportunity to announce Flow technology,” he said. “It’s an outsole with no rubber. It’s all foam. It has amazing traction, court feel and cushioning.
“It was something that from the first time I tried it, wear-tested it and got some reps in, I knew it was going to help elevate my game to the next level,” he said. “and allow a new level of efficiency and performance for every move I make on the court.”
The Curry 9 carried over several of the same design elements of the previous model, using the brand’s new “Splash” logo and the Flow cushioning technology.
“We wanted to play around with some different ways that the Flow could be expressed, with some different hits in the forefoot, and making it a little bit lower-profile,” said Curry. “It’s more of a low than what the Curry 8 was, but it still stands on top of the amazing Flow technology that I love and I think performs so well.”
While a collaboration with Sesame Street led the launch, and a Craig Sager suit-themed pair raised money for charity, the achievements and moments on the court made the Curry 9 memorable for its namesake. The bright blue and gold edition that Curry wore at Madison Square Garden and the “International Women’s Day” pair, celebrating his daughters and worn in the NBA Finals, rose to the top.
“We won a championship in these shoes, which was really special,” he said. “It’s something that I’ll be able to look back on and be extremely proud of.”
He places the Curry 9 in an elite tier because he wore them during one of his four title runs.
“It elevates it a lot ’cause what we do on the floor is everything,” said Curry. “The moments that you can create in these shoes, the colorways and all of that, you can give life to what you do on the court. Those experiences make it even more real and something that you can always look back on.”
“I see the 1, I see the 4 and I see the 5 – and I know those are shoes I won championships in,” he added. “I see the 2, and that’s the one we got 73 wins in, but obviously didn’t win a championship. All of the shoes have something that take you back to a time and place. I think that’s what this whole game is about.”
Retro and Flotro
During the 2021-22 season, Curry added a new component to his court footwear. He debuted the Curry 4 Flotro, a hybrid that brought the brand’s Flow technology to the retro models from early on in his signature series.
“This blended the best of both worlds and two of my favorite shoes within the line — the Curry 4 and the Curry 8,” he said. “Knowing that we’ve taken the best of two different shoes and morphed them together, added a classic silhouette and upper that the Curry 4 was known for, and complemented it with Flow, is a game changer.”
He eventually wore the Curry 4 Flotro in a lilac purple shade throughout the NBA playoffs and NBA Finals, winning every game in which he wore that colorway, while he also began to hit his new trademark “Night Night” celebration to close out each series.
“These shoes are undefeated in the playoffs, so these go down in history as a very special shoe.”
Curry Brand will continue releasing an annual signature model while mixing in Retro editions and Flow-powered hybrid Flotro versions. The Curry 1 became his first shoe to receive the retro treatment and has been rereleased in a wide range of original colorways and new expressions, with the Curry 2 and Curry 4 expected to be the next Retro launches.
“To now be able to revisit those with retro drops and releases, to pay homage to special moments in my basketball career and life, is special,” he said. “I think fans and people who appreciate the journey can relive amazing moments we share.”
In becoming the ninth NBA player to reach a 10th model, Curry takes on a reflective tone.
“To get to the 10th shoe, it’s a lot of hard work in a lot of different areas,” he said. “I’m definitely grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to share my story through my kicks and seeing them worn by anybody.”
The Curry 10 has taken a “greatest hits” approach all season long, inspired by some of his signature series’ most beloved themes and colorways.
“When you get to No. 10, there’s a company that I keep that’s played a part in the process of bringing these shoes to life,” he said. “Being a part of a team on the court, and then a team off the court that takes pride in everything that we do in the signature business and now with Curry Brand.”
Now, Curry is looking to extend his brand’s runway by signing up-and-coming athletes such as UConn star Azzi Fudd and launching products that aren’t restricted to basketball.
“We want to keep leveling up, performing at the highest level and reiterating the signature shoes,” he said. “We got Flotro now, we got Retro now and we got the Flow Cozy [lifestyle shoe]. We’re branching into golf, which is a huge passion of mine and a way to give kids and golfers access to my brand.
“Always with Curry Brand, finding ways to give back and create opportunity for the next generation to be able to go to safe places to play, have proper equipment, coaching and programs to find their best selves through sports,” he said. “That’s what Curry Brand is all about.”