It didn’t always start this way. You know, Internet-fueled anticipation, release-day pickups, and Instagram-induced jealousy. In fact, I grew up collecting basketball cards way before I started collecting sneakers. But there is one common thread: I always started from the beginning.
Each season I’d pick one NBA rookie—two depending on the draft class—to start collecting. Damon Stoudamire in ’95. Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant in ’96. Antonio Daniels in ’97. (I know.) And then it was my mission to collect every rookie card of theirs that I could. Why? Because once the season started and the world took notice it was too late.
Same with sneakers.
Missing out on a pivotal first signature shoe can haunt you for years to come. A phenomenon that most likely started with the Air Jordan I has since continued with the Air Zoom Generation, Zoom Kobe I, and Zoom KD I. Chumps wait for a shoe to become a “classic” and then buy it on the resale market or when it’s eventually retroed; champs recognize a classic from the jump and act accordingly.
Enter Kyrie Irving and the Nike Kyrie 1.
When word broke that Irving would become the first player in six years to have a Nike signature shoe I couldn’t have been more excited. The bread crumbs were there—face of the Hyperdunk in 2012 and HyperRev in 2013—and it was finally time to step out on his own. You knew that once Nike let Ricky Rubio walk in 2012, followed by Rajon Rondo and Stephen Curry in 2013, that their mind was already made up on Irving’s future.
His on-court play is electrifying—jaw-dropping handles and the ability to get buckets like few others can. And off the court, the young man who became affectionately known as Uncle Drew is just as engaging. No need for Sonny Vaccaro to consult on this one.
Paired with designer Leo Chang, the architect who is also behind Kevin Durant’s awesome signature line, the Kyrie 1 and its namesake had a banner 2014-15 season. Irving averaged 21.7 points and 5.2 assists in a career-high 75 games for Cleveland, including All-NBA Third Team honors and career-high 55-point (Jan. 28 vs. Portland) and 57-point (Mar. 12 vs. San Antonio) explosions—both in victories.
While initial chatter questioned whether or not Nike was wise to give a signature shoe to Kyrie with LeBron back in The Land, all that prattle soon faded away in the Cavs’ (and Kyrie 1’s) success this year. Hungry and humble, the only thing that can possibly slow down the success of Irving and his signature shoe line at this point are injuries (see: Hardaway, Anfernee).
If he can stay healthy, Kyrie has a big future ahead of him. He is going to win a lot of games (and hopefully championships) with LeBron & Co., and when you combine that with his inimitable style of play and already established “cool” factor, Nike Basketball can take this as far as they want to go.
As it should have been, the colorway offerings for the Kyrie 1 were just as good and diverse as his game. From the Deceptive Red launch to Flytrap and Brotherhood, not to mention the special looks for Black History Month and NBA All-Star Weekend, each sneaker took on a story and life of its own. And I’d be remiss not to mention my favorite colorway, Infrared, that took an iconic color lockup and made it look brand new.
Up next, Kyrie, LeBron, Kobe, and KD will get a patriotic colorway of their signature shoes on June 27, available at Champs Sports.
If you’re reading this let’s hope it’s not too late.
Follow Aron on Twitter at @the_real_aron