Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Under Armour (NYSE:UA) are bound to be gift-wrapped under some Christmas trees on Friday morning as athletic wear continues to hold sway in the style world.
But the two brands will also go head-to-head on the court on Christmas Day at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on Disney‘s (NYSE:DIS) ABC as Nike icon LeBron James takes on Under Armour ambassador and league MVP Stephen Curry in a much-anticipated Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors matchup.
James remains a fan favorite, topping ESPN’s quarterly popularity poll for the 10th consecutive quarter with 22.4% of the vote. But Curry zipped up to third place, behind retiring Kobe Bryant, with 12.5% — a huge year-over-year climb from the 1.9% he notched up in the same quarter a year earlier, according to the sports network.
And in June, Steph Curry jerseys became the No. 1 selling jersey in the NBA, outselling LeBron James jerseys.
In many ways, Curry’s place in the big leagues parallels that of Under Armour, the company that signed the slender point guard in 2013. Both the man and the brand have ascended to the spotlight relatively quickly, though each underdog-turned-contender remains overshadowed in the public eye by more dominant forces, in the form of LeBron and Nike, respectively.
And each is committed to becoming No. 1. When Time magazine asked him if he is the best player in the world right now, Curry responded, “In my mind, yes. That’s how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night.”
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, whose more than $3 billion sportswear company is still about a tenth of the size of Nike by sales, talks a similar game.
“(A)fter 10 years of being in the business, we are proud to report nearly 40% market share as the No. 2 player in the space, with eyes set on being the No. 1 player in the very near future,” said Plank at the company’s investor day in September.
He later added, alluding to Nike, “We don’t enjoy playing No. 2 to anyone.”
Nike topped earnings estimates earlier this week, boasting hefty futures orders growth that exceeded Wall Street expectations. And Under Armour footwear sales continue to climb amid the success of their signature Curry One shoe. The launch of the next edition, the Curry Two, has generated excitement among sneakerheads.
Fans of basketball and flashy workout gear should expect to see much more of James with Nike and Curry with Under Armour in the coming years: Under Armour has extended Curry’s contract through 2024, and James recently inked a lifetime deal with the Swoosh.
Under Armour shares fell 1% to 81.20. Nike fell 1.8% to 63.18.