Editor's note: This post has been updated since first published to clarify that Under Armour's re-hiring of Dave Dombrow was not a direct response to the reaction to the release of the Steph Curry Two Chef line of shoes.
Not long ago, Under Armour found its new secret weapon for sneaker sales: Steph Curry--the setter of 3-point records, two-time MVP, and all-around NBA super star. But it turns out, even Curry and his hugely popular shoes aren't immune to the wrath of the Internet.
Critics took to the web to roast his latest sneaker line, the Curry Two Chef line, unveiled yesterday, as an unmitigated design disaster.
The backlash comes after more than a year of exploding sales of Curry's previous Under Armour sneaker lines, which first launched in February 2015. Curry was projected to unseat LeBron James as the active player with the best-selling sneaker line in America ($160 million vs. $150 million) by the end of this year.
The Two Chef sneakers are among the first shoes released in Curry's line since Under Armour lost its top sneaker designer, Dave Dombrow, to Nike in March. The shoes, mostly white with splashes of gray and black near the sole, look more like tennis shoes--and they've inspired a slew of creative metaphors from critics.
Some have likened them to the kind of thing you'd see on someone trying to catch the early bird buffet discount or in a 1990s "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercial. Others have said they're akin to the shoes you might see on someone who lets their golden retriever sleep in their bed.
Steph Curry and Under Armour really targeting that emergency room nurse demographic. pic.twitter.com/MPR1UTPnRI-- Jensen Karp (@JensenClan88) June 10, 2016
Maybe not coincidentally, Under Armour announced in a press release yesterday that it had rehired Dombrow from Nike. He'll restart on August 1 in a new position, chief design officer. Due to a non-compete clause, he had not yet started at Nike.
Dombrow was the company's top designer and oversaw the launch of Curry's first two sneaker lines last year. Those lines helped Under Armour sneaker sales climb by 95 percent in in 2015.
Founded in 1995 by entrepreneur and former University of Maryland athlete Kevin Plank, Under Armour overtook Adidas last year as the second-largest sportswear company in America, with $4 billion in revenues in 2015. The company recently spent $1 billion buying health apps to integrate into its clothing.
Curry's sneaker cred and Under Armour should bounce back just fine--even with all the criticism, there are plenty of sneakerheads out there who will buy anything with his name attached to it. Given his track record, hiring back Dombrow could go a long way toward helping the company continue its momentum in the $4.2 billion basketball sneaker industry.
But for now, it's a lesson on how even a unanimous MVP can stumble--particularly when he's sporting nerdy white tennis shoes.