Kyrie Irving has a lot on his plate at the moment. Along with LeBron James, they helped deliver Cleveland its first major sports title in what feels like forever, made the go-ahead basket that delivered that championship, will help lead Team USA to hopefully another gold medal in the upcoming Summer Olympics and is slated to star as Jake Hoyt in a remake of Training Day with LeBron playing the role of Alonzo Harris. Well, at least that’s what the shirt indicates, right?

Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Activision
Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Activision

Ok, maybe that last part wasn’t real, but what is real is that Irving is fully entrenched now with the Nike family as the Nike Kyrie 2 is still going strong into the summer months. It was one of the most popular signature shoes of the past season and there is no doubt that expectations will be high for the Kyrie 3. So imagine our surprise when Kyrie was willing to actually talk about the shoe…

We had a chance to talk Kyrie about his kicks, his love of creating and a variety of topics as part of the launch of the new Descent DLC map pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (yes, wrap your head around the synergy). Along with being an avid gamer, he quite honestly surprised me with his willingness to put himself out there and play against other online as “Kyrie Irving, NBA champion” and it’s reflective in this conversation.

For us, when we see big name Nike athletes win, it’s an exciting time because we get to see special stuff like the Kyrie 2s you wore in the championship parade. Tell us what it’s like to be a Nike guy and to win as a Nike guy.

Winning as a Nike athlete makes it so much better because you are now allowed to be part of a group that have come before you or in my case, having a teammate who has won and now able you’re able to put out those special championship shoes. It allows the fans to have a connection to you through your brand and through Nike and that’s what I appreciate the most.

There’s so many creatives that go behind the shoes and then there’s the stories that I come up with. So when I’m seeing this come to life in stores and I’m seeing it on Kicks On Fire and I’m seeing you guys talking about who’s wearing what and talking about what’s coming out. I just have a true appreciation for all of this because I know that it’s not just for who I am that (KoF) is putting (Kyries) up there but also because of the quality of the shoe. If it’s a crappy shoe, you know, I understand that can just be because you have to put it out there because of the player, but for me when I go behind the scenes and I’m in all of my meetings, I’m thinking about how will (my shoes) be received not just by the consumer but also by blogs and websites and sneakerheads. I’m thinking about various groups that I’ve been a part of over my years and I need to speak to them and I want to make sure I connect with them and spread the word and connect with not just me but with others (at Nike) as well and seeing the creative behind the shoes.

That’s the part of the process that I enjoy, the actual making of the shoes and seeing them come to life. From breaking them down and taking them off and seeing what you like and don’t like and then putting it out there and seeing the response.

Nike
Nike

The Kyries at least from my perspective have felt like shoes that are very personal to you and that you played a huge role in the creation of them. Especially the Kyrie 2, in particular the ones that played off your name. I thought the Kyrie 2 Kyrie-Oke was good, but I also wonder what it had to do with karaoke. Now, I have to know, was that commercial for the shoe inspired by Michael Jackson?

Of course, man (laughs). You caught on to that.

NBA/Getty Images
NBA/Getty Images

And the other shoe that I thought was brilliant was the Ky-Rispy Kreme (and I’m bitter I don’t have a pair with the awesome box). How did all of this stuff come about?

It was literally just that. Let’s take my name and apply it to the shoes and connecting it to things that I love and it was like Krispy Kreme and they were like “well, what do you think about karaoke?” and it just went from there. What if we took an old Nike shoe that transcended the game and connect it to your game? What do you think about Huaraches? What do you think about the Fab Five? What if we called it the Kyraches? And we’re branching out and reaching different elements. We’re looking at the culture and exploring different areas (of basketball history) and bringing that to life.

So think about it especially for sneakerheads, if you have the old Huarache and then they have the Kyrache and all I’m doing is paying homage but doing it the right way. So we have this shoe that transcended from the older generation and is still popular with this generation and so you (the Kyraches) and boom, you connect with that.

The Kyrie 2 was one of my personal favorite signature shoes to come out from this past season and it seems like a lot of sneakerheads and casual fans have taken to it as well. I feel like part of it is because of the price and that it’s more affordable than a KD or a LeBron but also because the design is more appealing to the consumer. It’s simple but not in a way that’s cheap or demeaning to you.

I would say that the Kyrie 2 is simple but has the potential to be loud. It’s a balance, it’s simplisticly loud. So I have this barrier (design, price, tech, etc.) that I’m working in and I’m trying to stay in there because you can always have the dynamic, but to have something that’s simplisticly loud, I’m in a space I know that I can’t go way too high and I can’t get too low. So working within those “limitations” there’s so many combinations that you can mix and match. So when you have that and you create something, you have this thought of “ok, that’s it” and it makes sense. Now I know not every colorway is going to have that thought process in it because I also put out team colorways, but the Ky-Rispy Kremes that were limited pairs, or Kyraches that bring back the 90s. Then there’s something like the Triple Black that I’m looking at that connects me to the rest of the world because it’s not a low-cut basketball shoe and it’s not flashy, but there are plenty of people who just want that all-black shoe that gets the job done.

Now I know you can’t talk about the Kyrie 3 (we all laugh at this) in specifics, but what I would ask is when you look at the Kyrie 2, what were the things that you saw in the 2 that you know you were looking to improve or move on from in the 3?

Oh, it’s actually very specific. If you look at the Kyrie 1, you want it to be able to stand alone. You want to be able to look at it as a signature shoe that you start out with that it’s definitely a start-up, the beginning of something. Then you look at the 2, now I get a little bit of freedom to move away from 1. The Kyrie 1 I wanted it to be a double that could work as a lifestyle shoe and a performance basketball shoe. Now for the 2, I want to make a very specific basketball shoe that allows not only basketball players to connect with it but also other athletes like weight trainers, people just running around in shorts, stuff like that. And then that’s when my story also had to be a lot better and now the colors that I’m releasing is more intricate and everything had to be premeditated. So once that happened, I now have a lifestyle shoe/basketball shoe and a performance shoe in the 1 and the 2. Now with the 3, it has to be another standalone shoe that’s going to be more dynamic than the 1 and 2, it’s going to be more artistic but also the story behind it will be able to be read without me saying a word. So there has to be a big story that goes into the shoe but I won’t be telegraphing it as much. Moving forward, you all know who I am, so now you have an idea of what to expect from him. That’s what the third one has to be.

NBA/Getty Images
NBA/Getty Images

When you get out there on the court and you’re wearing those dope black and gold Kyries and taking on somebody like Stephen Curry, who’s an Under Armour guy, are those things that you talk about among each other or do you tend to leave that alone?

Oh, naw. I feel like to get a signature shoe from any brand is huge and there’s but respect there. When you see someone with a great shoe, you just support from afar. If it’s from a different brand, that’s great, but we’re also part of that (NBA) family, where we all want to continue to grow and do well and come out with great stuff.

So does that mean you’re going to support KD now that he’s on the Warriors?

Oh yeah, he’s part of the Nike family (laughs).


What can you tell me about the new Call of Duty map packs because I haven’t had the chance to try them.

Ah, well, there’s four maps that I can’t wait to dive into and it’s another chance for me to get better at the game, which I’m looking forward to. Me and my friends really go crazy for it. And today I did my first run with the Call of Duty team to help out my kill-to-death ratio. It’s just an amazing experience that I am looking forward to.

What about your experience with the Call of Duty franchise, have you been a fan for a while now?

Yeah, I played Black Ops 2, I didn’t play the first Black Ops… oh wait, I did play Black Ops 1. Oh man, I’ve been saying all day that I didn’t play Black Ops 1 but I did.

I’m a big fan of the single-player (in Black Ops) just for the simple fact that it can help you get better at the game and the storyline is how out of the world the creative thinking is behind it. And me visiting the Treyarch Studios to see the behind the scenes and really just see how they dominate this game and the making behind, just from the graphics to the storyline, the guns, the maps. It’s just amazing and it takes a lot of work to make it and I have a huge amount of respect for the creative behind it.

Until you see it behind the scenes, you won’t know and have an appreciation for (how much it takes to makes these games work).

With the Descent pack dropping (this past Tuesday), what type do you feel fits your style of play?

Oh, I am a very close range type, whether it’s in Domination or in Kill Confirmed, I’m in, I’m all the way in. Because when people camp or find their spots and pick you off, I don’t like that.

So what is your favorite mode from the all of the Call of Duty games, from the single-player to multi-player to zom…

Zombies is the one (laughs). Playing online with my friends. (That mode) works out better for me because as I’ve gotten older, from leaving Duke at (age) 19, and my friends are still in college. As I’m going through the NBA and I’m playing, I’m sending out group texts to all my friends saying ‘ok, we’re playing Call of Duty at 9pm’ and we’re scheduling online play or zombies and talking junk to each other. It’s fun and you make a lot of connections on there and sometimes when I’m playing and I’m going against a particular username and I’m playing with them for a certain amount of rounds, I’ll add them as a friend and invite them to my party every single time and they’ll part of my group text…

Wow…

Yeah, I feel like if you’re gonna play online and be a “public figure” my way to connecting to my fans is by being really into it and being part of the party and they literally go crazy (when I connect with them). Even if I give them a follow on Instagram, they can’t believe that it’s you and that you’re taking the time out of your day to have a normal conversation. I’ve gotten a chance to know people’s families, sent them shoes, signing jerseys. I do that through Call of Duty and with 2K. Those games to me is a great way to connect with my fans.

That’s pretty cool and honestly admirable because I’ve been doing interviews such as this for a while now and a lot of times people don’t want to go online or they don’t want others to know they are a famous athlete or celebrity.

I love it because it makes the experience that much more enjoyable for myself and my friends. Because then you get to meet people that are really good at Call of Duty and I want to learn and I want to get better and most of the time it’s just great people behind a joystick and a screen. There are great people who play this game and it’s cool for them to know that you notice them.