Kyrie Irving’s signature line is based on the idea that a shoe for a creative, quick-cutting player needs to focus on specific details. In designing the Kyrie 7, the creative process matches Irving’s spontaneity. Together, the athlete and the shoe highlight an important intersection: when improvisation meets mastery.
“For us, being creative means tapping into other disciplines at Nike. Our solutions as designers need to move toward technical advantages,” says Nike Senior Footwear Designer Ben Nethongkome, who designs Irving’s shoes. “Those advantages are what make this shoe better than the last.”
On the basketball court, Irving’s creative expertise as a ball handler helps bend the status quo, requiring new tools to bring more beneficial features to his shoe. In the Kyrie 7, computational design processes turn real-time game data into a 360-degree traction pattern, helping players stay in control as they move in and out of cuts. The pattern serves a Kyrie hallmark: a sole unit that wraps up the shoe's sides to maximize surface traction when changing directions (watch Kyrie bend his weak-side foot on a crossover to see this in action — often the entire medial face of his shoe is in contact with the floor).
The work was led by the Nike NXT Advanced Design Studio, which, just as when Irving uses an impromptu crossover to create space for a jumper, shows how data-driven geometry can forge new lanes in performance. The studio is able to take real-time game data and combine it with data collected during Irving's visits to the Nike Sports Research Lab, helping to precisely tune, and elevate, his performance.
That kind of cross-disciplinary thinking can lead to a better understanding of how refining small details can lead to big improvements. For example, the Kyrie 7 is lighter than the Kyrie 6. That's thanks, in part, to Nethongkome’s thinking around removing color dams, those grooves in the outsole that separate areas of color-blocking. Based on a shoe’s color-blocking, the outsole might feature different arrangements of color lines and section breaks. While color dams bring whiffs of personality, they can also add unnecessary weight to the shoe’s profile, creating a bump of about one millimeter when formed to the backs of the traction nubs. That might not seem like much, but over an entire outsole, it can mean an extra few ounces.
Irving’s creativity might include flashy, impossible dribbling, but his dance-like sequences always have a point. He’s working to either get to the basket or set up his teammates (or make a defender look silly). Similarly, the way in which Irving’s signature line taps into other Nike disciplines is a matter of intention. New technologies and tools are meaningless unless they drive new futures. Nethongkome says that Kyrie’s eagerness to think creatively about his own line shows how the point guard wants to shape a future for performance hoops that’s bigger than himself.
“Kyrie wants to take the torch as that go-to performance model for that cutting kind of player,” he says. “The 7 was made with that kind of attention to detail.”