To quote Stephen A. Smith, Kyrie Irving is at the “box office”. Still, the Australian-born hoop’s recent uncertainty as an NBA athlete has, according to sources contributing to ESPN, caused Nike to reconsider its signing partnership with him.
Since 2014, the Nike Kyrie series (currently in its eighth edition) has been one of the most popular and profitable athlete efforts for the Swoosh. The Nike Kyrie 9 is still set to debut in the fall, but there’s speculation it will be the final model made under Irving’s initial partnership with the sportswear giant. With the exception of Michael Jordan reissues and the late Kobe Bryant’s iconic sneaker lines, athlete-specific footwear has been a struggling business for the Oregon-based conglomerate. However, Irving’s consistent time off the hardwood made marketing the Kyrie 7 and Kyrie Infinity (“8” on his end) difficult. Additionally, the 30-something’s stubbornness around the COVID-19 vaccine for much of the past two years has only amplified the guard’s reputation for being difficult to work with. (Ahead of the current launch of the Nike Kyrie sneaker, the Brooklyn Net took to Instagram to call the silhouette “trash,” saying it had no design or marketing input and that the brand planned to toss the shoe without its co-sign.)
In a statement provided to ESPN, a Nike spokesperson did not deny the end of the Kyrie Irving signature shoe line, instead sharing, “We do not comment on contracts, rumors or speculation. Kyrie remains a Nike athlete.
Only time will tell what Irving and the Swoosh decide to do, though it’s likely that Nike will continue to offer products (i.e. re-releases of old pairs) associated with designer “Uncle Drew”. Talents like Ja Morant have emerged at the box office over the past two years, which surely has the Oregon-based conglomerate thinking. Whether or not Irving’s run with Nike ends in 2023, both sides have already won.
For firm release dates, check out all the upcoming Air Jordan retros.