Nike Basketball adds Kyrie Irving to its exclusive signature athlete roster

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving officially became the newest member of the Nike Basketball signature family on Wednesday, when he was introduced to a small group of media members at an event held in an art gallery space in the Chelsea district of NYC.

A large amount of professional basketball players are endorsed by Nike, and proudly wear a wide variety of the company’s shoes on the court. But getting the signature athlete treatment is the rarest of honors.

In the company’s 42-year history, less than one percent of its endorsed athletes have been given a signature shoe. Irving joins Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the only active NBA players to have achieved this distinction.

Before Irving was brought on stage, Anfernee Hardaway and Charles Barkley discussed what being a signature athlete had meant to them during their stellar professional careers. Barkley, wearing a brand new pair of purple Chuck Posites, called it the best business decision he ever made. And Hardaway, who was the centerpiece of one of the company’s more popular ad campaigns, discussed how it’s a lifelong relationship — one that still sees the release of signature models in his name more than six years after his retirement.

Once Irving was introduced, so was his first signature shoe — the Kyrie 1. And like all signature models, there are plenty of personal details that went into creating Irving’s ultimate design.

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“I took this head on,” Irving said. “Literally I was just like, man, I’m going to do it my way. Every meeting that we had, I wasn’t trying to be the loudest, but I was trying to give them as much input on what I wanted. [Not only] because it has to be basically what I want and what I have to wear, but also [I wanted to give] input on what I think that the younger generation and the generation that’s ahead of me would respond to. It’s different colors, but also having the authenticity of the shoe and how comfortable it is and how it looks, but also, it dives deeper into the stories that are behind it.”

Leo Chang, lead designer on this project and also the one responsible for designing Durant’s latest model, shared one such story, which illustrates just how open Irving was during the early stages of the process.

“What’s funny about this is that these two fingers that you see (pictured in black on the red shoe below), they’re not only there for lockdown and forefoot fit — which is super-important, and something that Kyrie was telling us, that he didn’t want any movement in that front,” Chang said. “He wanted to be contained and locked down, so that came from a functional need.

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“But also, as we were talking a while back, he was telling us a story. It was him and his dad in a room with us, and he was saying, ‘Whenever I used to do something bad or got in trouble, my dad would send me to my room — the dungeon we’d call it.’ And his dad would make him lean against the wall with two fingers, and just stand there. And they were jokingly arguing between them — Kyrie was saying it was like two hours, and his dad was like no, it was two minutes. So that was pretty fun, and just a cool nod to lockdown, sending him to the dungeon. It’s just a fun little story that I wanted to throw in there.”

“Having this be the first shoe, and having him be this open this soon probably is something that is a little more rare,” Chang said. “Sometimes it takes time to get to know these guys and get them to open up as much. We’re thankful that he was that cool with us.”

Other personal details featured in the design include a hand-written #2 on the upper heel, along with his signature on the inside of the tongue. The bottom of the shoe features his mother’s name, birth and death dates (she passed away when Irving was just four years old), along with a JBY logo which stands for “Just Be You,” Irving’s mantra for how he conducts himself.

From a performance standpoint, the two keys in Irving’s eyes were traction and forefoot lockdown. A small group of us got together for a late-night run to play in the shoes, and both of those elements were well above average. There’s also excellent forefoot cushioning thanks to a Nike Zoom air bag, and Phylon foam in the heel to deliver cushioning upon impact.

The jagged traction pattern on the front of the shoe was inspired by the Sydney Opera House in Australia where Irving was born, and comes up over the side like that because in reviewing film of Irving’s game, the designers noticed the way he drags his foot along the floor while in the process of making explosive moves to the basket.


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There are two initial colorways scheduled to release: The Kyrie 1 Dream (Black, Multi-Color) will be available in North America on Dec. 23, and the Kyrie 1 Deceptive Red will be available globally on Jan. 10, 2015. Irving was wearing a Cavaliers-themed wine and gold colorway later on the night of the launch, and it sounds like there will be plenty more on the way as the season progresses.

“There are so many different stories and so many different colorways that are going to come out in the future that are going to be so crazy, and it’s always going to have a story behind it,” Irving said. “I think that kids really respond to having a connection with someone where (previously) they had no idea about it. I have a story to tell with all my colorways that are coming out, and I really can’t wait to share them with everybody.”

Irving debuted his shoes at Madison Square Garden on Thursday in a nationally televised contest against the Knicks — one in which he scored a game-high 37 points, and sealed the victory with a high-arcing, left-handed floater off the glass.

“That’s what we do at Nike,” LeBron James said afterward.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.

 

LeBron becomes oldest player with 39 points, 11 boards, seven 3-pointers (he’s also the youngest)

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The first question after LeBron James put up 21 and 8 to help the Lakers beat the Spurs Friday night was whether he would play in the back-to-back Saturday. He had just missed five games with a groin strain, after all.

Not only did LeBron play Saturday, he had a historic night.

LeBron had 39 points, 11 rebounds, and shot 7-of-12 from 3 — making him the oldest player in the history of the NBA with a 35+, 10+ with seven 3-pointer game.

The youngest player ever to put up that stat line? Also one LeBron James.

The 39 points were also the second most points ever scored by a player in his 20th NBA season, trailing only Kobe Bryant gunning his way to 60 in his final game.

The Lakers got the second straight win over the Spurs on Saturday behind LeBron, 143-138, a game more likely to be remembered for Zach Collins getting ejected for a foul that left Russell Westbrook bloody. The Lakers have won three straight and 5-of-6 but have done it against a very soft part of the schedule (three of the wins were over the tanking Spurs). Los Angeles beat the teams in front of it and started to show signs of life this season, but now they have to carry that over into a stretch against better teams, beginning Monday against the Pacers.

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Watch Spurs Collins bloody Russell Westbrook with a foul, get ejected

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
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Jakob Poeltl was dominating the paint, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds in 10 minutes, and giving the Lakers serious trouble. Then he had to leave the game with a sore quad, meaning Zach Collins would get more run.

Collins was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Russell Westbrook that left the Lakers guard bloodied. Westbrook bounced back up and LeBron James had to hold him back from going after Collins.

Collins plans to appeal the ejection he said after the game.

Collins will face a fine or suspension from the league, although he doesn’t have a history of this kind of foul, something the league takes into consideration. Westbrook also got a technical for going after Collins.

The Lakers went on to beat the Spurs 143-138, behind 39 points from LeBron James. It’s the second time the Lakers have defeated the Spurs in three days, the kind of wins over tanking teams the Lakers need if they are going to turn their season around.