- Host of The Woj Pod
- Joined ESPN in 2017
- Senior writer for ESPN.com
- Spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has long had one of Nike’s most popular and profitable signature basketball shoes, but uncertainties surrounding his NBA future have left the company unlikely to extend him to a similar signature deal beyond the 2022-23 season, sources told ESPN.
Irving has a new edition of his shoe set to debut in the fall, but that is expected to be the final year of a lucrative signature series that he has had with Nike since 2014, sources said.
Reached by ESPN, Nike did not deny the looming end to Irving’s signature shoe series.
“We don’t comment on contracts or rumors or speculation. Kyrie remains a Nike athlete,” a spokesperson told ESPN on Thursday.
Because of Irving’s popularity, it is expected Nike will still offer some product associated with him in the future, like retro shoes from previous collections, sources said. But as discussions between Nike and Irving about his endorsement future have commenced recently, it has become apparent his relationship with the company will change — perhaps dramatically so.
The turbulence surrounding Irving — which includes the Nets’ noncommittal stance on negotiating a long-term contract — has included several episodes in the past two years. For much of the NBA season, Irving remained unvaccinated against the coronavirus and inactive because of New York City mandates. Eventually, the Nets changed course and allowed him to become a part-time player for road games, and a change in city policy allowed him to play home games for the final stretch of the regular season and playoffs. Irving averaged 27.4 points in 29 games for the Nets before a four-game sweep by the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Irving, 30, possesses a $37 million player option with the Nets for the 2022-23 season.
In July, Irving lashed out on social media about the design of the Nike Kyrie 8 edition of his shoe, calling them “trash” and insisting that “I have nothing to do with the design or marketing” and that “Nike plans to release it without my okay.”
Days later, Irving issued a statement tempering those words, but that episode certainly did little to lay the groundwork for another deal centered on his signature shoe series.
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