Kyrie Irving on the Kyrie 5
How I would describe this shoe to my 17-year-old self is to sum it up in a single line, “look how far we've come." It's remarkable to see what can be created based upon having technology that is beneficial for the player.
When you first start out as a signature athlete, when you have your first shoe, you're just so excited. You're appreciative. You're grateful! I still have those same beliefs.
Nike has always done a great job of wanting to be better, wanting to do things, especially for their signature athletes, to separate them. The KYRIE 5 has been a step in the right direction. The performance evolution from a KYRIE 1 to a KYRIE 5 is incredible.
I try to integrate who I am and the principles I live by into my signature line and make a great, great shoe.
But watching it evolve to where it has now, I’m more enriched with the cultural aspects that make fashion and ideas move forward. I’ve become more involved with what's going on in the outside world. Before, I was just trying to get a shoe out. I was just trying to have something that looks hot, looks good. Now I’m trying to have something that is driven from who I am.
In that, I’m just a normal person with a vision. I want to have everyone be included in it.
With the colorways, and the stories these relay, I'm trying to be more honest. Whether people pass judgment on the stories or not, it's going to happen. The importance is making these relatable. And at times, I want to support others in sharing their stories. People sometimes feel like they're alone or they feel like they can't connect to anyone. I want to come in and bridge that gap for them — that's part of the great potential of this whole thing.
How the KYRIE 5 Works
That technology Irving mentioned? It’s a new Nike Air Zoom unit engineered to help the All-Star guard play quicker and sharper. Benjamin Nethongkome, designer of the KYRIE 5, breaks down its three critical elements:
1. An articulated forefoot zoom bag This is a huge technological unlock for supporting guard play. Why? Because of its unique properties (see sidebar for more on this), the Air Zoom Turbo unit curves to wrap the bottom and sides of the foot. "In the Kyrie 5, it is distributed across the entire forefoot footbed, working with his quick-change-of-direction style of play. When he's banking, cutting, or attacking in drastic degrees, his foot will engage the Air Zoom Turbo unit providing responsiveness at all directions," explains Nethongkome.
2. A new containment system Inspired by a Venus Flytrap, this feature creates optimal containment above the Air Zoom Turbo unit. “The Flywire is arranged so that it locks the foot into the Air Zoom Turbo unit, and this amplifies the responsiveness of Zoom in the forefoot,” says Nethongkome. “We wanted it to be both beautiful and improve on fit and feel.”
3. A new traction pattern This draws direct inspiration from Irving. “The traction system for the KYRIE 5 creates stability through discreet geometries,” says Nethongkome. “Have you seen the Hamsa hand tattoo on his left arm? It's a symbol of protection for him, it kind of shields him from all the bad juju, and so it became the jump-off point for the shaping of the outsole patterns. He wants to have more than just a basketball shoe. And this allows us to apply more of his spirit throughout the shoe.”
Inside the New Nike Air Zoom Turbo
Specifically designed for quick start-and-stop play, the Nike Air Zoom Turbo is engineered to follow the curved shape of the KYRIE 5 outsole. This means that as a player rolls toward the basket, the cushioning responds with rapid energy return for all angles of attack. It works because of a game-changing new manufacturing method that creates flexibility in the Air unit via a series of welded channels. This allowed designers to manipulate the bag and form it to the foot and the contour of the shoe's banked tooling.
Why the Shoe Is So Special
The KYRIE 5’s design and lifespan — every colorway through the season — all bare Irving’s stamp of approval.
Some of the changes from early prototypes include a shifting of the Swoosh placement and a re-sculpting of the collar. Beyond that, and as Irving stresses above, he is beginning to embrace the value of using his signature line as a platform for more diverse storytelling.
He's also become more vocal about creating what he wants in terms of driving color and overall design, regularly noting thoughts and sharing them with Nethongkome.
The Kyrie 5 “Taco PE” is a collaboration with Travis “Taco” Bennett.
To find the right balance of honesty and style, Irving asks himself a series of questions: "What are you willing to try? What are you willing to push forward? What are you willing to go see? What are you willing to bring into the influence of what you're creating?"
These questions will be answered throughout the season. Look out for a series of special edition KYRIE 5 colorways that tap into both Irving’s past passions and the contemporary creative forces that are inspiring him today.
The KYRIE 5 launches November 22 in the Blk Mgc colorway. The shoe will release December 6 in China.
Check out Nethongkome's original sketches for the KYRIE 5 here.