At times during the 2013‐2014 NBA season Kyrie Irving was the subject of much criticism and scorn team and league-wide. Despite having earned All-Star Game MVP honors, many judged the extremely talented point guard as a malcontent.
Rumblings from teammates, team staff and league media lamented frustrations over his effort level, ability to share the ball with teammates and Deion Waiters as well as calling into question his overall desire and drive to be an elite player.The Cavs future appeared bleak. At the start of the 2013‐2014 season they had just re‐hired Mike Brown who the Lakers dumped after his infamous 1‐4 start. Brown didn’t seem to have filled any sort of void left by their firing of Byron Scott after completing just his second season as head coach (2012‐2013).
What a difference a year makes. Since the end of the 2013‐2014 season the once lowly Cavs have seen the return of LeBron James and very key acquisitions of Kevin Love, Timothy Mozgov, Imman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith as well as Deion Waiters’ departure. It’s safe to say Kyrie’s seen a lot of change in a short time. The current Cavs team has collectively embraced this transformation, the fact that they lost by as narrow of a margin as they did to the historically impressive Warriors in the NBA Finals is a glimpse of the bright future that lies ahead for this battle‐tested team. Kyrie signing an endorsement contract this past season also marks a momentous milestone.
It certainly isn’t often, but Nike takes a risk anytime they offer a signature shoe contact. Nike launched the Kyrie 1 “Dream” on December 3rd in New York. He scored a game high 37 points at the Garden on the 4th to mark a victorious unveiling of the shoe. This is the first time since 2007 (with Kevin Durant) that Nike has dropped a signature shoe. Needless to say, having your own Nike shoe is a big deal. Kyrie joined a very short list of current players that hold their signature shoe line alongside Kobe, LeBron and Durant.
Kyrie has sufficiently answered to the pressures of being granted a coveted endorsement deal with this iconic brand. His consistent, outstanding play (fueled by a newfound defensive grit) throughout this past season warrants this privilege. In capping off a dramatic, career high 55‐point performance against the Blazers, he scored a three pointer as the clock expired for the win and topped that with his victorious, career high (57‐point) over‐time performance against the San Antonio Spurs. Kyrie has flourished playing alongside LeBron. He’s displaying a demeanor of positivity, effort and sustained brilliant play that wasn’t there in 2013‐2014.
LeBron’s positive presence has propelled Kyrie’s game to new heights. In conjunction with the Nike shoe contract, his second consecutive All‐Star nomination I believe these moments signify the arrival of this 22 year‐old phenom. Since LeBron returned he’s proclaimed this is “Kyrie’s team.” Kyrie’s playing alongside someone who’s won a title, that he trusts and can look up to is the foundation for his turnaround in play and spirit.
Nike’s created an impressive range of creative colorways for the Kyrie 1 and the shoe’s artistic style designed by Leo Chang matches Kyrie’s game just perfectly. Because Kyrie’s game is characterized by speed, quickness and versatility, the shoe was constructed to be lightweight and low to the ground. The arsenal of dribbles he deploys moving from fast and slow speeds usually leaves opposing defenders caught in the passing wake of one of his drives. The shark teeth edges along the front sidewalls suggest his position as an aggressor with a dangerous ability to attack and score at all times. With Kyrie being a native of Australia, Nike incorporated this design element as a nod to the Sydney Opera House’s architecture.
This year Kyrie shouldered the responsibility of being a leader and taking control at crunch times of what LeBron declared is “his team.” The future seems beaming for the young Kyrie and these Cavaliers. There seems to be no ceiling in place for just how good he will become. Similarly, sold at just $110 his shoe holds a better value compared to the prices of the other Nike signature athletes (LeBron’s $200, Kobe’s $200, Durant’s $150) shoes. Any of the past chatter around “Kyrie is over rated”, “he can’t play defense”, “we should trade him now,” is as distant as the idiocy displayed from those at a past time who declared of their never rooting for LeBron again. Staying in line with Kyrie’s demeanor this shoe exudes a quiet yet confident aura. His stock as one of the elite players in the game along with his signature shoe is on the up and up.