Among sneaker designers, Tinker Hatfield is a legend. After joining up with Nike in 1981, he went on to create some of the Swoosh’s most iconic shoes, including the Air Max 1, which introduced a visible air bubble in the sole, and numerous editions of the iconic Jordan sneaker.
Hatfield is as synonymous with Nike as CEO Mark Parker. But even he can’t help but praise Stephen Curry, the NBA star who is currently on pace to record one of the greatest seasons in NBA history—and who is signed to Nike competitor Under Armour.
“I would love to design a shoe for Steph Curry,” he said in a recently published interview with GQ. ”I think he’s an amazing player and I love watching him perform, and certainly he would be right up there in the top of my list as someone I’d love to work with.”
Curry was at one time a Nike athlete. But according to a recent story from ESPN, the company lost him in 2013, after it mishandled a meeting and gave the impression he would not be a top priority for the brand, which boasts a roster of stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Now, Curry, who some are already calling the best shooter in NBA history, is the single largest reason Under Armour offers Nike any competition at all in the business of basketball sneakers. Nike and its Jordan brand still own well over 90% of that market, a situation which isn’t changing soon. But in terms of the signature lines of NBA stars, Curry could eventually unseat LeBron as the league’s top seller. Nike even swiped the lead designer of the Curry sneaker, though the effect is mostly symbolic.
You can’t really blame Hatfield. He’s made a living trying to create the most innovative products, such as adaptive, self-lacing sneakers, for some of the world’s best athletes. Stephen Curry is the one who got away.