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Stephen Curry Explains His ‘Night Night’ Celebration

Last Updated: September 23, 2022
Sparked by his return to the NBA playoffs, Curry’s late-game gesture against the Nuggets took on a life of its own as the Warriors returned to championship form.

After missing the NBA playoffs for two straight seasons amidst a flurry of injuries to himself, the team’s promising No. 2 pick, and his longtime Warriors core counterparts, Stephen Curry issued a stern warning for the 2021-22 season to come:

“You don’t want to see us next year.” 

Over the next twelve months, Curry enjoyed a record-breaking mid-December night in New York, an All-Star Game MVP performance with sixteen 3s and 50 points in Cleveland, and a playoff push that saw the Warriors return to the postseason as a 3-seed. 

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It was during the Dubs’ first-round series against the Denver Nuggets in which the Warriors saw their playoff prospects proving potentially prosperous. After missing the last 12 games of the regular season with a bone bruise and sprained ligament in his left foot, Curry was coming off of the bench throughout the opening round series.

Held to an exact average of 30.0 minutes per game, he was itching to ensure that he make his mark in his first playoff games since the Warriors came up short in the 2019 NBA Finals. 

“I was just feeling amped being back on that stage,” he admitted to Boardroom.

No stranger to an array of hand gestures and celebrations, whether it be his skyward point after a made 3-pointer, his hand-curling binoculars touting his court vision after a highlight pass, or even quickly removing his mouthpiece to declare Oracle Arena his “fucking house” – Curry can be creative on the fly. 

In recent years throughout all levels of hoops, we’ve seen the “too small” low hand hold after a bullying post move. The “on his head” top tap after a poster dunk.

The game already has multiple moves for individual moments, but when Curry kicked off what would soon become his signature celebration of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, there was a semblance of finality involved whenever it showed up, a notice to opponents that the end was near: 

Night. Night. 

Initially, Curry alluded to a different ritual – tucking your kids in for sleep – when describing the phrase.

“It’s the final signal for a job well done that day,” the father of three said during the playoffs.

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

As the “Night Night” celebration was gaining steam through the spring, former Under Armour exec-turned SC30 Inc. VP Kris Stone pushed to create some simple t-shirts highlighting the phrase, atop the Curry Brand’s “Splash” logo.

It was Paul Minutoli, Under Armour’s VP of Graphics, Prints & Branding, who then stylized the block font and precise placements. Courtside Warriors fans were soon showing up to games in strategically gifted shirts, just as the Warriors were on track to clinch the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, punching their ticket to a sixth NBA Finals appearance in eight years. 

Two weeks later, the move became the signature sign-off of Curry’s Finals MVP performance to close out the Celtics in Boston. 

From the locker room, he fired off social media posts on Twitter and Instagram — it didn’t take long to come up with the caption — and both became his highest engaging posts ever on each platform. The tweet alone garnered 60 million impressions, after tallying up more than 187,000 retweets.

Four days after the Warriors title, head coach Steve Kerr pulled up to the team’s Tuesday afternoon championship parade through San Francisco in a black“Night. Night.” t-shirt. 

“I don’t mind it all,” Kerr had said during the playoffs. “… He realizes that it’s all part of the game and players are going to trash talk during the game, they are going to have their theatrics … he enjoys that part of the show. But there’s a humility to Steph that people and fellow players around the league also recognize. So I think they respect him, and that’s why he gets away with it. Whereas some guys may not.”

That Friday, Curry Brand had partnered with Bay Area-based retailer Shoe Palace to launch the tees in both black and white – they sold thousands in a matter of minutes.

The demand has been so high that the one-color screen print shirts are fetching north of $100 each on eBay, while also spawning a global knock-off market across the depths of the internet. 

By June 26th, SC30 Inc. had actually filed trademark application paperwork in California for the phrase “Night Night” — to be used, as expected, in footwear and apparel. The filing also extends to as many as 35 product categories, including everything from bedding and glassware to boxing equipment and alcoholic beverages.

The following week, Curry was enjoying himself in Lake Tahoe during the annual Celebrity Golf Tournament, donning a white “Night Night” tee in between rounds at Edgewood, while boating along the water with friends and family. 

Fast forward to the anticipated lead-up to the 2022-23 season, and the celebration has already been incorporated into the official trailer for the next edition of NBA 2K, while pro athletes and players of all sports around the world — from Sabrina to Neymar to even viral elementary aged players — are mimicking the gesture in their own way.

To hear all about how the “Night Night” celebration began, and soon shifted to a different stratosphere during the playoffs, Boardroom caught up with a “Night Night” tee wearing Stephen in the Bay at his Curry Camp, where he hosted a dozen of the top boys and girls high school players in the country for a hands-on week of skills, drills and lessons around his approach to the game.

Nick DePaula: When did you first do the “Night Night” celebration and when did you realize it was taking off? 

Stephen Curry: The first time I did it was Game 3, in Denver. It happened quick, and it was one of those situations where you were back in the playoff vibe. We had missed it for two years. I was just feeling amped being back on that stage. I was coming off the bench, so I was even more hyped up, with even more energy coming off of the injury and all that.

When we got to the fourth quarter, I don’t even know where it came from. It was literally no thought. It was kind of a back and forth game, and we were on the road. I knew if we could win Game 3 and go to 3-0, it was pretty much a wrap on the series. It was just a matter of whether [the series would be won] in Game 4 or a “gentleman’s sweep” in Game 5. 

Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, we got a stop, and I was just talking to myself:

“Put ‘em to sleep. Put ‘em to sleep.” 

That was the conversation I was having with myself. Not with anyone else on the team or anyone else in the arena. 

Curry during Game 5 against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Then, I had finished that layup underneath Jokic, and that was the thought that came out – just to do the sign. I didn’t say, “Night Night” at the time. I was just telling myself, “Put ‘em to sleep.” 

Fast forward to Game 5, when I made the last layup to go up five with 19 seconds left. That was the official, “Put them to sleep.” The camera didn’t get me on that one, but I actually said it. 

Fast forward to Memphis, Dallas and then Boston, and it kind of took on a life of its own. 

NDP: How did it feel to break it out again in Boston and seal the Finals win? 

SC: It felt the best. The way that game went, it was an emotional rollercoaster. They came out just hitting every shot, and they were up double digits in the first four minutes. We slowly just crept back and then went on that 21-nothing run. When we came out in the third quarter, everyone was feeling it. Let’s just step on their throats, right now.

We came out hot and got the lead up crazy. I went wilin’ out, with the “ring on the finger” celebration, really early in the third quarter. [Laughs]

From there, it was just, “When is that moment, when we’ll know we’re over the hump?” When you’re trying to close out a series, let alone a Finals, it’s hard, and you feel every possession.

Every possession feels like an eternity. I hit that 3, and it was more so to let my team know, “We’re here. And we got the job done.” 

I saw JP [Jordan Poole] over there [on the sideline], and he was egging me on to do it before I even did it. Seeing his smile and seeing everyone going crazy over [on the bench], it was kind of like the start of the celebration type of vibe.

NDP: What’s it been like seeing athletes from sports all around the world doing the celebration? 

SC: It’s the best, ’cause some are taking it to new extremes that I would never feel comfortable doing in the league. But it’s dope to know how far the reach is. I’ve told people before, “I know there’s people that did the symbol before me.”

But to know that you cemented a moment that’s on the biggest of stages, and people are inspired by it and want to have fun with whatever they’re doing with it — they’ve taken their own spin on it and have had some creativity with it. 

NDP: Do you have a favorite one that you’ve seen?

SC: Alex Morgan is probably my favorite because she had the [CONCACAF Women’s Championship] trophy with her and hit the “Night Night,” and we were able to post it. 

Every time I see it, I still crack a smile because it makes me go back to our playoff run and just how powerful sports are in terms of the collective community and everybody being inspired by what everyone else is doing. To know that they were watching and taking it to their arenas is dope. 

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About The Author
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula covers the footwear industry and endorsement deals surrounding the sporting landscape, with an emphasis on athlete and executive interviews. The Sacramento, California, native has been based in Portland, Oregon, for the last decade, a main hub of sneaker company headquarters. He’ll often argue that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made the NBA Finals.