Warriors can afford Stephen Curry new $215 million deal

OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 01: (L-R) NBA Player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors attends the “Stephen Vs The Game” Facebook Watch Preview at 16th Street Station on April 1, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images)

Steve Jennings | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Stephen Curry is one of the few megastars in the National Basketball Association. Now he will go down as the first to secure multiple $200-plus million contracts.

The Golden State Warriors agreed to another extension with Curry — this time a four-year, $215 million deal that expires in 2026. Curry’s new pact puts him at roughly $53 million a year on average, including nearly $60 million in the final year of the agreement. Per NBA rules, the Warriors can’t announce the deal until Aug. 6, but a person close to the matter confirmed the agreement to CNBC.

Curry, 33, is coming off a 2020-21 NBA season where he led the league in scoring (32 points per game), shot 42% from three-point range, and was named to his seventh All-Star team. His current five-year $201 deal expires in 2022, so the Warriors needed to address the matter. It was unlikely the Warriors would let Curry depart, and though his contract numbers made the headlines, team business allows this contract to take care of itself.  

By securing Curry beyond next season, the Warriors protected their league-high team revenue streams, including a $20 million per year jersey sponsorship. The Warriors bring in nearly $500 million per season, according to Forbes, with expectations that will reach closer to $700 million annually. Before the pandemic, the $1.4 billion Chase Center in San Francisco attracted more than $3 million in gate revenue per Warriors game.

That real estate helped owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber increase team value to an NBA-high $4.7 billion. They paid $450 million for the Warriors in 2010.

Back then, Curry was only making $2 million a year and coming off his rookie season. He was plagued by injuries, and competed with former Warriors guard Monta Ellis for face of franchise. Nevertheless, the team made the playoffs under Curry’s reign in 2013 after averaging 28 wins per season during the first few years. And value grew as the wins accumulated.

Curry led the Warriors to the first of five straight NBA Finals in 2015, winning three championships and two MVPs in the process. The Warriors’ business then exploded. The Chase Center had commitments for $2 billion in tickets and other contracts tied to the building before opening its doors, and the Warriors’ international appeal increased, especially throughout China, the NBA’s top overseas market.

Within the Warriors organization, someone owes basketball executive Larry Riley, the man who drafted Curry, a thank-you card.

“We went from being a team that when they were ready to play expected to lose, to a team that believed they had first had a chance to win and then expected to win,” former team president Rick Welts told CNBC in 2019. “That’s a gigantic shift in the culture of the Warriors.”

Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

Curry also dominates off the court

If he reaches the end of this contact, Spotrac estimates put Curry close to the $500 million range for basketball earnings — minus taxes, of course. And he’ll only be 37 by then, meaning Curry could lure more from basketball if he remains active.

Throughout his time in the league, Curry has helped the NBA’s business overall, including the recent regular season.

The NBA’s play-in game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Warriors drew an average of 5.6 million viewers, as it featured Curry and fellow megastar LeBron James. The NBA wants to add the concept to its yearly schedule to justify a higher media rights fee. Having Curry and James as the league tested the idea helped viewership metrics surrounding the format.

“When your best player is not only the athlete and talent that he is,” Welts said of Curry’s appeal, “but also the person that he is, you’ve got a heck of a head start in trying to create something special.”

Curry’s success also assisted in building his brand off the court. He brings in roughly $40 million in endorsements and has an equity stake in companies like beverage maker Oxigen. In addition, Curry started his investment firm SC30 and owns a stake in San Francisco-based tech firm Mos and Guild Education, which is based in Denver.

“You have to be strategic about it,” Curry told CNBC in August 2020 of seeking equity partnerships. “You have to have the right team in place to manage the future and those relationships.”

Curry carries the Warriors brand on the crossover opportunities, including events like Turner Sports’ celebrity golf games. He has over 50 million social media followers (Twitter and Instagram), and his popularity among new-age sports fans is top for male athletes. Curry finished fourth among women’s sports supporters’ top five most favorable athletes in The Sports Innovation Lab’s “Fan Project” report. The research company notes “Fluid Fans” – those who show no alliance to teams – support Curry’s advocacy for women’s sports and like his personality.

Curry’s brand away from basketball is solidified. And with this extension, the Warriors positioned themselves to capitalize on his remaining time atop the NBA’s megastar landscape.

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