Stephen Curry had answered questions about his new Under Armour signature shoe for about 30 minutes. The Q&A was close to wrapping up when one last question came in.
“I see the 4:13 on the tongue,” a media member asked. “What does that mean?”
Curry’s whole disposition brightened. His postured straightened. He pulled the microphone closer to him. A smile spread across his face.
“That’s a good question,” the Golden State Warriors point guard said. “Glad you asked.”
And there it was, playing out just how he drew it up.
“It represents a Bible verse I wear on my shoe,” Curry said. “Philippians 4:13. It says ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ It’s also my mantra, how I get up for games and why I play the way I do.”
The new Curry One, set for a Feb. 13 release, is a proclamation that he’s arrived as an NBA star, and he’s a different kind of star.
His new shoe is a microcosm for how he approaches this pedestal his sweet jumper has propped him on. It’s his latest example of how his amazing story is part of a divine plan.
For Curry, the shoe represents overcoming, considering not that long ago he was all but written off due to repeated ankle injuries. It represents sacrifice, as he traded in credibility and global reach by shockingly leaving Nike. It also represents ministry, which is why Curry’s new sneaker is dripping with spiritual innuendo.
“It’s part of my DNA, who I am,” Curry said. “To have that come out in my vision for my first shoe is special.”
Curry’s ministry style is subtle. He’s not, as he says, a “beat people over the head with the Bible” type. But his approach is to make his faith so infused into his existence that knowing him means coming into contact with his faith. That pattern holds true in the new Curry One.
Curry has become one of the most popular players in the NBA. He was the leading vote-getter for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, and his jersey sales are second only to LeBron James.
On the court, he’s one of the most feared. He’s been facing double teams and physicality all season. Still, he’s averaging 22.8 points, 8.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds this season, leading the Warriors to the best record in the Western Conference and well on his way to another All-NBA selection.
But what’s the platform without a message? And Curry’s is intrinsically tied to Christianity. So it’s no surprise that element is present in his new shoe.
In addition to the verse on the front of the tongue, inside has the phrase “I can do all things …” — another shout out to his favorite verse. Curry used to write it on the sole of every shoe (along with Romans 8:28, his mom’s favorite verse).
“You don’t want to scare people away with this idea that I’m perfect or that you have to be perfect to find that calling,” Curry said. “It means a lot to be able to spread that message, whether that’s what you believe or whether it helps you find whatever it is that motivates you to do all things. Every time you put on the shoe, it’s a good reminder of what is possible.”
The slogan for the shoes is “Charged by Belief.” The charged represents the unique cushioning in the shoe, the latest technological advancement Under Armour has concocted in which impact is absorbed and converted it into a burst. That benefits a player like Curry, who thrives on change of direction on the court. But “Charged By Belief” also explains what powers Curry.
Throughout his journey from a skinny kid at Charlotte Christian Academy who was scarcely recruited to an NBA All-Star with international fame, Curry has been fueled by belief. While others doubted his skills, his size, his ankles, he was forced to trust in what he could not see.
It was his faith that prompted him to stay at Davidson instead of transferring to a major school, even after he’d became a national sensation in the NCAA Tournament after leading his little-known school to the Elite Eight.
It was his faith that drove him to work on his game while critics and analysts doubted him for lack of size and defense, many labeling him a one-trick pony best suited for coming off the bench.
It was definitely his faith that got him through repeated right ankle sprains and multiple surgeries that jeopardized his career.
“Charged by Belief has a lot of meaning,” Curry said. “It matches with the Under Armour story, being an underdog and having to build from the ground up, and the belief Kevin Plank had in his vision. It’s also about my faith and the belief in my game despite what other people might say.”
Better believe the freedom to blend his faith into his brand had something to do with why Curry took the risk of leaving Nike, which dominates the market share in sports apparel. But with Under Armour, Curry finds the freedom to use his platform how he desires.
His road to this level was different, traversing from tiny Davidson College to the top of the list in NBA jersey sales. His game is different, combining ball-handling and passing and vision with one of the deadliest shooting skills in league history. So it stands to reason, now that he’s arrived, he’d do things differently. The evidence is in the shoes.
Marcus Thompson is a sports columnist for Bay Area News Group. He is also an avid fan of CHH fan who used shai linne’s “Penelope Judd” as a bedtime story with his daughter. He recently added a quote to his list of desired tattoos, the eloquent words of Marshawn Lynch: “Shout out to Oakland, California.” Follow him on Twitter at @ThompsonScribe