Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is arguably the best sneaker pitchman in the NBA. Now on his fifth signature sneaker with Nike, Irving’s shoes have continued to thrive in a declining basketball sneaker market. In 2014, he became the first player in six years to receive a signature sneaker with Nike—one of the most exclusive clubs in the shoe business—joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant at the time. The Swoosh’s investment in Irving was very clear from the beginning—they brought out former signature stars like Charles Barkley, Penny Hardaway and former teammate LeBron to introduce his first signature shoe.
His global appeal and love for sneaker culture has been apparent from day one, and his sneakers are only going to evolve. He has become excellent at intertwining his business and interests within his signature shoes. He has collaborated with Pepsi, Concepts, Tennis star Nick Kyrgios and plenty others. There are no weak links in Kyrie’s signature line, but we still wanted to determine which sneaker was the best. Sports Illustrated ranked his shoes one through five.
5. Kyrie 3
The Nike Kyrie 3 is a beast of a performance model. The sneaker was built with Kyrie’s speed and agility in mind. The traction pods are perfect for a player that maneuvers around the court as much as he does. The sneaker is also a very personal silhouette that features hidden references to his late mother, Elizabeth, with roman numerals VIII and XIII (her birthday, August 13) that mimics the tattoos on his left and right wrists. The symbols are visible every time he laced up a pair of his sneakers.
The sneaker also had great but very unique colorways such as “Hot Punch”, “Ray Gun” and “Bruce Lee”.
4. Kyrie 4
The Kyrie 4 is perhaps the most comfortable Kyrie shoe to hoop in. While there wasn’t much of difference on the aesthetic front from the previous model, the Kyrie 4 took more chances. We saw him collab with General Mills on a very popular cereal sneaker pack that sold out instantly, and he released a very special Uncle Drew inspired silhouette while the movie was in theaters. He also debuted an ongoing collaboration with Concepts on several “Lobster” inspired PE’s.
The Kyrie 4 introduced the new lead designer for his line—Benjamin Nethongkome—who, along with Irving, made it a goal to improve the shoes material choices. That decision was influenced by classic Nike and Air Jordan silhouettes.
3. Kyrie 5
The Nike Kyrie 5 is Irving’s latest signature sneaker and perhaps his boldest yet. The shoe is already off to a solid start with a variety of collaborations and colorways released. The Flytrap is the first thing you notice on the shoe, and you have to give him credit for trying to be different. The Flywire locks the foot into the newly used cushioning system, the Nike Air Zoom Turbo unit, creating great responsiveness in the forefoot. The traction system is inspired by Irving’s Hamsa hand tattoos—which he wanted to feel connected to the shoe.
So far, every colorway Irving has released or worn on the court has a special connection to him in some way. The Kyrie 5 X Concepts “Ikhet” draws inspiration from one of Irving’s favorite streetwear brands, Concepts. He also released the Kyrie 5 “Little Mountain” in December, paying homage to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that his late mother was a part of. Irving received his Lakota name, “Little Mountain” in August by the tribe.
Irving, who was born in Australia, also released a collaboration with tennis star and Australian native Nick Kyrgios on a collection that features a Kyrie 5-inspired Vapor X sneaker. The Kyrie 5 “Taco” sold out instantly and was inspired by Odd Future DJ and Tyler the Creator’s right-hand man, Taco, who has become one of Irving’s closest friends. The Kyrie 5 has my early vote for sneaker of the year.
2. Kyrie 1
The Kyrie 1 garnered rave reviews. The sneaker was Irving’s official stamp into superstardom. He joined an impressive signature roster with established global stars such as LeBron, KD and Kobe. The Kyrie 1 was something fresh that younger children gravitated toward because of the fun themes and affordable pricepoint.
1. Kyrie 2
The Kyrie 2 is Irving’s most aesthetically pleasing silhouette. Add the fact the sneaker is one of his best performance models this decade and you have a winner. While it did not possess as many collabs as his current models, he had perhaps his most iconic move with Krispy Kreme. The strap gives it an extra push as well that locks in your foot.
The Leo Chang designed Kyrie 2 was as good as it gets for follow-up sneaker in a signature line. The Air Jordan II wasn’t celebrated early on in MJ’s career. The LeBron 2 is a cult classic but it is not considered the best in his signature line.
The Kyrie 2 is also the sneaker worn during one of the biggest shots in Finals history, when Irving hit the game-winner in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Case closed. The Kyrie 2 is without a doubt his best signature sneaker so far.