Learn how Stephen Curry’s retro-inspired hybrid sneakers helped carry him to his fourth NBA championship and first Finals MVP honor.
The summer of Steph is in full swing.
After winning another ring in 2022, Stephen Curry is as in-demand as ever. The four-time champion has his hands full these days, hitting the links, building a brand, and hosting the ESPYs. His jam-packed schedule also includes his Under Armour Curry 4 FloTro sneaker releasing at retail July 22 — in both black and pink colorways.
Famously, the Curry 4 FloTro became Steph’s sneaker of choice during the 2022 NBA Playoffs as the Warriors went 6-0 when he was wearing the aptly nicknamed “Lucky Lilac” motif. As the baby-faced assassin put the Boston Celtics to sleep in Game 6 of The Finals, the man with the hot hand and cool shoes sat on the floor in disbelief, wiping tears of joy from his green eyes.
To think, it was only three years prior that he sat stunned in that same pose, shedding tears of anguish with his franchise’s future appearing bleak. It was that setback in 2019 that set the foundation for revising the future of Steph’s footwear.
It’s Lonely in the Lab
Dating back to his days at Davidson, Curry’s journey is a screenplay that Walt Disney couldn’t write.
From underrated and undersized to the people’s champ, Steph overcame the odds to change the game, inspire others, and make his family proud. Over the course of his NBA ascent, everything had seemingly gone to script until his fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals in 2019. Closing out Oracle Arena, his home away from home and the place he became a superstar, the perfect going away party was unceremoniously spoiled by visitors from The North.
Losing to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 NBA Finals, the Golden State golden boy lost more than just a chance to three-peat. Rather, he’d lost his two top running mates to injury and trade winds. With the future uncertain and his back against the wall, Curry did what he always did.
He went to the gym.
That summer, while working out tirelessly and wear-testing upcoming products, the team at Under Armour presented Steph with their next innovation: Flow foam. Intended for running, the futuristic foam created by Dow Chemical and Dupont had aspirations of shaving mile times on the track and moving units at the mall. In a sense, it was meant to compete with Adidas Boost and Nike React in the transcendent running and training category.
Curry is both curious and a figurehead for Under Armour, making him the perfect candidate to beta test the technology for basketball, despite its original purpose. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. With Steph coming off a Finals loss and slipping sales traction in the market, both the baller and the brand took a risk and crossed their fingers.
“You don’t put your No. 1 guy in the experimental foam until you’re ready to do it,” Curry Brand GM Ryan Drew admitted to Boardroom.
Thanks to favorable feedback and gut intuition, conversations crept up about Flow foam being featured in the upcoming Under Armour Curry 8 — a shoe set to release at retail roughly 18 months after that post-Finals workout. Because the 8 uppers were still stuck in development stages, the team at UA put together a makeshift sample by stitching the Flow sole to that of an old favorite.
“It was a happy accident that we came up with the Curry 4 FloTro,” Steve Segears, Global Merchandising/Senior Merchant for Curry Brand, told Boardroom. “He was working out and was our first wear tester for Flow to see what benefits it had on the basketball court. We had the Curry 8 tooling, but we didn’t have the upper at that time, so we were Mr. Potato Head-ing uppers onto the Curry 8 Flow tooling, and the Curry 4 was the first one we tested. We saw it when he was testing it, and we said, ‘Hold on, we’ve got something here.'”
Over the course of that workout, Steph became infatuated with Flow. So much so that he hit his design team and brand with an ultimatum.
“We were planning on starting Flow in running,” Segears said. “Steph put it on the court and said, ‘If the 8 doesn’t have Flow in it, then we’re not doing an 8.’ He was so demanding.”
Months later, Steph started the 2019-20 season in the Under Armour Curry 7 — a low-top look built off the brand’s HOVR platform and MicroG foam. Infamously, he broke his hand five games into the campaign, shutting down his hopes of returning to the Finals for instant vengeance. In a matter of minutes, the Warriors went from perennial favorites to losing their way into the draft lottery.
All the while, Steph and UA worked behind the scenes to expedite the process of rushing Flow for the upcoming Curry 8 as a means to launch the Curry Brand.
By the fall of 2020, both were ready, and so was Steph. With Flow on his feet, the prodigal point guard put up a career-high 32 points per night and played in 63 games. Though the Warriors lost in the play-in tournament, Steph’s box score and shoe box both pointed to signs of future success.
“Steph used to ice his knees after every game,” Segears said, “but he said because of Flow it takes some of the wear-and-tear off of landing. He no longer has to ice his knees because he isn’t feeling that same pain. Flow has a lot of benefits, and if you’ve played in it, you can feel it.”
As the 2021-22 NBA season approached, Flow had proven itself on the court and in the market. With the Warriors eyeing a comeback campaign finally at full strength, the Curry Brand looked to leverage their latest innovation with an old favorite.
Passing around the Potato Head hybrid Steph wore years ago in the gym, designer Ed Wallace and creative director John Humphrey discussed ways to remake and release the concept that started it all. Little did they know how good the timing would be.
Hustle & Flow
Just as Chef Curry cooked quietly behind the scenes, getting stronger in structure and smoother in shots, his team at Under Armour devised new ways to amplify the emerging Curry Brand. Through Flow, Steph’s greatest hits had the chance to be remastered and re-released to a new audience with new benefits.
“When I saw the Curry 4 FloTro, it was just a prototype hanging around our Portland office,” recalls Curry Brand Senior Footwear Designer Ed Wallace. “The 4 is everybody’s favorite. We decided to keep it simple and true to the OG, but improve it from a performance standpoint and make it feel premium.”
2017’s Under Armour Curry 4 is aesthetically the creme de la creme of the Curry signature series. Debuted without warning in the heat of the postseason, Steph shocked at-home audiences in the audacious look en route to winning his second NBA title.
“When it comes to FloTro, we have a unique proposition here,” Segears said. “The Curry 4 is an iconic shoe. When he broke out the original pair in the Finals? We know what type of history he created in it and that it was a major departure from the Curry 3. It captured a lot of eyes, and people were extremely excited about it.”
While the Curry 4 proved easy on the eyes and appealing at market, it still had its flaws. The silhouette was so sleek and sharp, the knit collar and midfoot fit was too snug for some. Two Curry-branded pull tabs help with ease of entry on the FloTro. The cushioning also left room for improvement, with a priority placed on court feel in the original, and the more plush ride of Flow entering into the equation now.
“When Ed and I were going back to redo the 4, we looked at consumer feedback, as people who wore the 4 a lot,” said Segears. “Ed put extra padding in the ankle, and we really scrubbed all the details. Some of the areas that caused problems in the past? They will not cause you those problems moving forward because these guys really went in.”
As a nod to Steph’s summer of 2019, the Under Armour Curry 4 FloTro made its debut on court during the 2021-22 NBA season. After a noteworthy debut in Portland, the comeback kid began putting pairs in rotation for his first trip back to the playoffs since losing to Toronto years prior. Not only did Steph play often in the FloTro 4s, he excelled.
“Steph’s really superstitious,” Drew said. “When he finds something he likes, he’ll stick with it. If he doesn’t have a good experience? We’ve seen him go into the locker room and change. I remember being super paranoid years ago when he only had one shoe, feeling like the sky is falling. Now he’s got so many shoes that he can pull out of the bag. He has so many options, and it’s great for us.”
Rotating through pairs of new Curry 9s, and even breaking out the “Oakland” Curry 6, Steph somehow found solace most in the unexpected FloTro 4. Famously, he went 6-0 in the NBA Playoffs wearing the “Lucky Lilac” colorway, taking home his first Finals MVP in the shoe.
The timing was vindicating for the Curry Brand team.
“It’s been an incredible string of events,” Drew said. “To tell me that ends with this? I’m just so happy for Stephen because he’s so different from anyone I’ve worked with. There’s rooting for people because you’re a fan, and then there’s rooting for people because you deeply support them and believe in what they do.”
For Drew and Curry, those tears of pain in Oracle had come full circle in Boston.
“You have background knowledge of all that went into it, the blood, sweat, and tears,” he added. “I was crying when he won, and he was crying. It was cathartic after the last couple of years.”
Old Dog, New Tricks
On July 22, Steph Curry releases his newest sneaker.
Well, kind of.
Refining the beloved but flawed Curry 4 from the 2017 NBA Finals, the 2022 Curry 4 FloTro features Under Armour’s trademark Flow cushioning with reengineered uppers for softer fit and less pinching. This month, both black and pink pairs will begin the rollout, with the “Lucky Lilac” and grey get-ups hitting stores on Aug. 5.
The pink pair plays off of the All-Star iteration of the original Curry 4. The black-based drop is a simple, no-nonsense style with the grey take benefiting from a glow-in-the-dark sole. Both days of drops build out the ever-growing Curry Brand breadth of products, while also adding energy for the landmark launch of the upcoming Curry 10.
Through FloTro, Curry Brand builds the opprotunity to tell numerous stories on a string of silhouettes year round. It’s good for business — and even better for ballers.
“It gives us the opportunity to go backward and take another bite at the apple,” Drew said. “Sometimes the construction wasn’t that great, or the traction wasn’t that great or the cushioning was terrible. We can go back and fix that stuff to bring it back to speed, similar to what Nike’s done with Protro. That language is already out there, and FloTro is using the vernacular of the sneakerhead. That was intentional.”
Not only is FloTro a treat for hoopheads and fans of Steph, it’s a rare underneath-the-hood rebuild that typically doesn’t make its way to retail.
Performance hybrids as a means of transitioning techs or aiding injuries have long existed in hoops. Famously, Nike modified many original Air Jordan 1s for an up-and-coming Mike, adjusting the strap and sole for the sophomore star returning from a navicular stress fracture in his left foot. Years later, the Swoosh readied the Black Mamba’s debut of the low-cut Nike Zoom Kobe 4 by having Kobe Bryant play games in a sole-swapped version of his famed Hyperdunk.
While those styles were never released at retail — save the lifestyle-leaning Air Jordan 1.5 decades after the fact — the Under Armour Curry 4 FloTro is built off the same mechanics of his Hall of Fame forefathers. The implementation of modern mechanics on an archival classic is somewhat signature to the Nike Kobe Protro series, of which the term FloTro derives, while the larger legacy play is inspired by that of MJ’s Jordan Brand.
In essence, the Curry FloTro series aims to please two audiences at once, releasing modernized playable retro basketball shoes while still offering them in casual friendly colorways.
The Finals MVP’s endorsement and eye-catching color of the “Lucky Lilac” launch place the Curry 4 FloTro in high favor. Through hard work and great timing, the Steph Curry franchise has another summer blockbuster.
“We had a little bit of luck on our side from a release standpoint,” Segears said. “You know about all the supply chain issues, and we weren’t immune to those. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”