After debuting with Brooklyn for a fresh start this fall, Kyrie Irving also debuted his latest signature shoe, taking advantage of the team's muted black-and-white jerseys to make the most of his pink and blue limited-edition Kyrie 6.
Inspired by Tokyo, the sneakers are part of an 11-city exclusive pack, highlighting Irving's favorite cities around the world in a tribute to his No. 11 jersey. All throughout the past year, he and Nike designer Ben Nethongkome brainstormed on his sixth signature sneaker, mapping out framing ideas and layering in nuances and details to continue to elevate the line.
"Kyrie's a creative, on the court and even in design sessions," Nethongkome told The Undefeated. "He's not a guy who's gonna sit in the back of the room and observe from afar. He's really in the nitty gritty."
Irving is just the sixth NBA player to reach six signature shoes with Nike Basketball during his career, a distinction that added to the effort and thought he contributed throughout the development process. Irving's Hamsa Hand tattoo is incorporated along the heel, while an "all-seeing eye" is featured along the collar and outsole pattern.
"What separates my Kyrie 6 from the rest of my line is really just the creative design behind it," Irving said. "I've had a huge, huge hand in a lot of designing processes before. But this is the one where I really, really started from being in a hotel room, having a bunch of ideas and boards, and trying to combine a bunch of my favorite shoes and favorite ideas into one."
For Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, taking on that process for the first time became a learning experience over the past year as he worked with Adidas to develop themes and ideas for his debut D.O.N. Issue #1 sneaker.
"I wouldn't say overwhelming," he said. "I think it was just a lot. Like, 'Wow, this is all happening.'"
While a variety of colors tie back to the Jazz franchise, Mitchell's love for comic books or elements of his upbringing, his latest pair centers around Veterans Day and highlighting those who have sacrificed for the country. With a camouflage graphic standing out across the white base upper, Mitchell also added a handwritten "Thank You!" along the midsole.
The sneaker design process has become an outlet for him to highlight stories close to him, and it's a process he's looking forward to becoming more hands-on with.
"I've talked to other guys about signature shoes and their input and how they do that," he said. "They've gotten to points where they sit down for three to four hours and break down every part of the shoe to help them in every way possible. That's what I'm trying to get to."
A player much more familiar with the signature shoe design process, Vince Carter, has been celebrating his longtime connection to Nike and his most beloved sneaker during his final NBA season. It was the four-pillar Shox BB4 that he was wearing when he leapfrogged a human during the 2000 Olympics, debuting the technology in the grandest way possible while creating the most iconic highlight of his career.
"The success of the dunk started the legend of the shoes," he said. "But I myself went to another level with them, too. I became a star player in the BB4."
In the early 2000s, Carter became the face of Shox for the brand, with each of his signature shoes incorporating the cushioning pillars.
"Getting the opportunity to debut a new technology was a no-brainer to me. It made sense with how I played," he said.
All season long, he'll be wearing both original colorways and new versions of the classic Nike model as he brings his career to a close. While his new raptor-clawed pair honoring his Toronto roots turned heads, he proudly unveiled the sleek original millennium-era metallic silver and lapis blue pair that he once wore as a face of the franchise last week.
Carter's teammate and the face of the Hawks' franchise, Trae Young, has been taking advantage of his own creative input with Adidas to bring life to his laceless, high-performance N3XT L3V3L model.
Styled in ice blue and red -- thanks to the league's loosened color restrictions -- Young's "Ice Trae"-themed colorway could be his best yet, with "Icee"-themed text featured throughout the ice-blue, clear rubber outsole.
Last but not least, Hornets forward Cody Zeller launched his own charity foundation and a "Kicks For Kids" program last week, which will see him wear custom-painted sneakers highlighting a handful of causes close to him. Proceeds from auctions of the game-worn sneaker and from additional donations will ultimately benefit children's hospitals in Charlotte, North Carolina, and his native Indiana, along with autism organizations and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
"It'll help kids in a lot of different ways. Kids in a hospital, help with education, or kids of fallen soldiers," he said. "My brother has a 6-year-old and my other brother has a 2-year-old. I don't have any kids of my own, but I'm the cool uncle for now. Every time I'm around them, kids just have such a pure innocence."
He kicked off the program with a pair of Hornets-hued Jordans honoring former teammate Kemba Walker as the beloved point guard returned last week for the first time as an opponent with the Boston Celtics.
The pair features messages from each of the four students Walker mentored in recent years through the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, highlighting his impact in the community beyond the court.
"Obviously, he did a lot on the court for our team, but he was also very active in the community, and that's what I love about Kemba," Zeller said.
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