Reigning league champion Stephen Curry is undoubtedly one of the biggest business bargains in the NBA. While his salary--a reported $11 million in 2015--is nothing to sniff at, the point-guard superstar is still just the fifth-highest paid player on the Golden State Warriors. Curry had inked a deal with the team back in 2012, when persisting ankle injuries put his long-term sports value into question. The deal set him up for $44 million over the next four years.
For anyone who follows basketball, that value is no longer questionable. The star broke his own record last month for the number of three-pointers made in one season; he's already netted 339 balls so far this season, well exceeding the 286 he made in the previous year. Sports analysts laud his style of taking more, generally risky, shots, which ultimately earn a higher return.
"To have a slugging percentage and an on-base percentage so far beyond the league norm--well, that's what Curry is doing now," says MLB historian John Thorn, comparing Curry to baseball legends Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth in a recent interview with The New York Times.
Curry says he's well aware of the pay discrepancy, but is adamant that signing the contract was the right decision for him at the time. (He could have passed on the offer for a larger sum by instead striking up a deal with a restricted free agency in 2013.)
"I had to make a conscious decision and remind myself over and over [to let it go]. I could've had a different perspective and said, 'I want to get everything that I could get, wait it out, test free agency that next year--and who knows what would've happened?" Curry told Yahoo Sports. "But for me, a $44 million contract was plenty for me to be able to provide for my family."
He went on to explain that, if he'd passed on the deal with the Warriors, it was entirely possible for his injuries to become debilitating, thus leaving him without any fiscal security. His smart strategy: to bet on the long term, knowing full well that his brand had yet to be tested.
Of course, now that Curry is the most valuable player in basketball, he probably deserves to be making more money. For reference, the highest-paid player in the NBA in 2015 was LeBron James, by Forbes's estimate, with a staggering $20.6 million salary, and endorsement deals racking up another $44 million.
Still, Curry keeps up a positive attitude. "Number one, there's nothing I can do about it," he told Yahoo Sports. "There's no point to moaning and complaining and trying to change something that really can't be changed."
Curry, it's worth pointing out, has also pulled in a not-insignificant sum by signing (and subsequently extending) an endorsement deal with Under Armour. The company is an underdog in the merchandise category, as Nike presently owns about 90 percent of the basketball-apparel market share.
"I love the underdog mentality. That's the staple of my story in basketball, coming through the ranks," the player told CNBC last September, when he announced an extension of the deal through 2024 (which is likely to be the remainder of Curry's professional basketball career). That's no surprise, considering that his signature sneaker line has substantially boosted Under Armour's revenues--which were up to roughly $4 billion in 2015.
Playing the long game, so to speak, may well be worth it for Curry come summer 2017, when he'll be up for a five-year, $175 million maximum extension from the Warriors.
Startup founders may want to consider emulating the basketball wunderkind's humble, yet calculated, fiscal strategy. Knowing your value--and betting that you can grow it--can often be the smartest move to make.