The Sneaker Evolution of Kyrie Irving
Now in his eighth season in the NBA, when Kyrie Irving isn’t busy breaking ankles he’s dilating pupils with his kicks. Five-time All-Star, 2014 MVP, and the league’s resident flat-earther, Uncle Drew was never one to walk the well-trodden path, a resolute characteristic embodied by his five legendary silhouettes with the Swoosh. Ice in the veins and rainbows on the feet, this is the sneaker evolution of one of the most significant players in the sneakersphere since Jordan: Kyrie Irving.
THE MAMBA MENTALITY
For Kyrie, it all started with the Nike Kobe 5 ‘Bruce Lee’. At 17, Kyrie played at the Nike Extravaganza, a basketball tournament hosted in Los Angeles, California. Kyrie took a W, and from that point on, the sneaker entered a kind of personal folklore.
‘I [was] wearing these Nike Kobe “Bruce Lee” editions for the game. We ended up winning, and from that point on it was my favourite shoe, ever.’
Kobe Bryant not only served as an inspiration on the feet, he also influenced Kyrie’s on-court basketball philosophy, with the take-no-prisoners ‘Mamba Mentality’ helping Irving to become one of the most nuclear ball-handlers and scorers in the league. The Nike Kobe 5 ‘Bruce Lee’ would also prove the catalyst for one of the most popular Kyrie 3 colourways: the ‘Mamba Mentality’.Taking a gash across the sneaker’s toe unit, the Kyrie 3 was hit with a retina-burning yellow reminiscent of the Kobe 5, the sneaker embracing new snakeskin detailing fused with some of Kyrie’s signature motifs, altogether becoming one of the baddest sneaker mashups in history.
A HEART-SHAPED SOUL
Before LeBron and Kyrie linked up for one of the most stunning Championship comebacks of all time, a young Kyrie was quietly cultivating his LeBron James collection.
‘I would always buy LeBrons ... I had to have them, and there were so many colourways and so many inspirations. Now that I’m his teammate, I see where all this comes from.’
At just 22, Kyrie inked a deal with Nike, joining a short list of NBA players to have their own signature shoe. The Kyrie 1 was deeply personal, incorporating architectural vernacular from the Sydney Opera House (Kyrie was born Down Under), the date his mother died (when Kyrie was just four), and a double ‘H’ on the outsole serving as a reminder for him to ‘stay hungry and humble’.
How did Kyrie go in with his first outing in the 1? He dropped a lazy 37 on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
CRAZY AF COLOURWAYS
The LeBron precedent obviously had an impact. Kyrie started dropping some of the most pupil-dilating designs in the game, driving the narrative forward with a technicoloured blend of the brilliant, bizarre, and straight-up insane.
Kyrie set a new paradigm for using sneakers as a storytelling device, employing his Uncle Drew alter ego for the Kyrie 1, serving up the Kyrie 2 ‘Kyrispy Kreme’, and releasing the Kyrie 4 ‘Wheaties’ with a spoon, bowl and cereal. Our personal favourite? The Kyrie 4 ‘Confetti’.
Peel back your eyelids with the technicoloured gallery above.
KYRIE'S COSMIC FLOWERS: THE 5
Releasing back in November, the Kyrie 5 featured the kind of idiosyncratic stylings only Kyrie Irving could pull off. Resembling a living, breathing organism, the sneaker looked as if it had been cross-pollinated with the plants. Kyrie’s December link up with the Concept’s lab served as his sneaker tour-de-force: the ‘Ikhet', an Egyptian-inspired silhouette that painted a purple sunset across the pyramids.
Like Kyrie’s on-court game, expect Uncle Drew’s sneaker evolution to continue to shock, disorient, and defy the very laws of design that govern the (flat) earth he spins across.