In honor of today’s NBA Rising Stars Challenge, we are turning today’s features over to our interns, who represent the next generation of Kicks on Fire. NBA Kicks specialist Joe Shermancontributes this piece on the rise of a certain
old youngblood who is poised to take over NBA All-Star Weekend.
Kyrie Irving played a total of 11 games during his time as a Duke Blue Devil before eventually getting drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA draft. During his short stint in the NBA, Irving had already wowed both viewers and his professional colleagues with his play on the court. Irving was named NBA Rookie of the Year in his first season. This year he became the sixth youngest player to be named an All-Star, joining the likes of Kobe Bryant,LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Isiah Thomas, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Good company right? But Irving has seen a growth in his popularity not only because of what he does on the court, but because of his presence off it as well. We’ve seen his headline commercials for sponsors such as Foot Locker, Skullcandy, ESPN, and his most popular, Pepsi Max. Irving’s alias “Uncle Drew” can be seen as the main contributor to the spike in popularity. But we’ve seen this before haven’t we?
Kobe Bryant signed multimillion-dollar deals with sponsors like Sprite, Nike, and Spalding. LeBron James signed endorsement deals with Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Upper Deck as an 18 year old. Shall we run through all of MJ’s endorsement deals? That won’t be necessary. Even though these deals provided great exposure for Kobe, LeBron, and Jordan, they did not catapult them into superstardom; it was their signature shoe deals that set them apart from the rest.
Here are other notable NBA stars with a signatures shoe line: Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, Kobe Bryant, and even JOHN WALL (for a short period of time). These players get the luxury of sitting down with the world’s greatest designers to create a shoe that is a direct extension of their play and personality. Irving inked a shoe deal with Nike this past year and could have possibly opened the door to his own signature shoe. Nine years ago, another first-overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers signed with Nike. Although Irving’s career might not follow the path of mega-stardom like LeBron’s has, Irving certainly has the potential to be one of the greats thanks to Coach K’s tutelage, and of course, the added marketing exposure as the newest Nike Basketball athlete.
But what would a signature do for Irving’s brand? What could he bring to Nike that megastars Kobe, LeBron, or Durant haven’t already? Let me explain. If Irving’s game can be transformed into Nike’s next signature line it would create a buzz that we haven’t seen in some time. A heartbroken city of Cleveland and their fans of would be able to go into shoes stores again with pride. A signature for Irving would finally give Nike a shoe designed strictly for the elegance and versatility of the little guy on the court (D. Rose – Adidas, CP3 – Jordan, Brandon Jennings – Under Armor). This could benefit both brands tremendously. He’s already obtained the nickname “Mr. Fourth Quarter” at the tender age of 20. Just image what the masterminds over at Nike could do with that. Potential has played a vital role in every signature shoe deal that we have seen and I believe that Kyrie has a ton of it. At this moment, it is just speculation on weather Kyrie will be the next to join the elite list of athletes with signature shoes. But are we witnessing the next big thing in the making? Only time will tell.