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.


“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.


“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.


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.

Tyler Herro carries Heat over Celtics in Game 4, within one game of NBA Finals

Tyler Herro after Heat-Celtics Game 4
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If the Celtics targeted Tyler Herro in the 2019 NBA Draft, they have more reason than ever to lament their near miss.

Herro scored 37 points to lead the Heat to a 112-109 win over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday. The 21-year-old rookie put Miami up 3-1 and himself in the record book.

The only other player so young to score so much in a playoff game? Magic Johnson, who had 42 points in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals at age 20.

The Heat will look to reach the NBA Finals in Game 5 Friday. Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-1 have won 95% of the time.

Miami’s big concern: Bam Adebayo, who hurt his wrist late in the game. Adebayo (20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) played through the injury but appeared to be feeling it.

He and the Heat just kept grinding through everything, though.

Miami won despite shooting only 10-for-37 on 3-pointers (27%). Forget about make-or-miss league. The Heat willed themselves to victory with aggravating defense, hustle, rebounding… and, yes, big-time shot-making by Herro, who made 9-of-11 2-pointers and 5-of-10 3-pointers

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers – some forced by Miami, some self-inflicted. The Heat’s zone defense continues to make Boston uncomfortable, though Marcus Smart (10 points and 11 assists) found some success penetrating and kicking against it. Jaylen Brown (21 points and nine rebounds) knocked down some of those created looks.

After a scoreless first half, Jayson Tatum scored 28 points in the second half. Stephen Curry scored 33 second-half points after a scoreless first half in Game 6 against the Rockets last year. That’s the only time someone followed a scoreless first half with so many second-half points in the Basketball-Reference postseason database, which dates back to 1997.

But those successes weren’t sustained. Tatum (six), Smart (four) and Brown (four) all had too many turnovers.

This series is even by points scored. But Boston has been just a little too erratic, which is why Miami has the key 3-1 lead.

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.