Few sneakers have the luxury of falling perfectly into place with the calendar as the first signature line of Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, Nike’s Kyrie 1. Released in late December of 2014, Irving’s mid-top shoe was commonplace on the feet of NBA players and fans throughout the entire year, releasing in a bevy of colorways and NIKEiD-made player exclusives. While it may have only been available for roughly half of the NBA season, it was a shoe that hit all major league-wide events and then some.
Irving’s release was special for several reasons. For starters, the former Duke point guard became the first Nike athlete to get his own signature basketball shoe since Kevin Durant—arguably the best scorer in the game—six years prior. Up until last December, the pantheon was fairly exclusive with Durant being joined by two of the five or six greatest basketball players in the history of the game in LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. It was also the first release that Nike did over the web as fans were invited to tune in to a live stream of the sneaker’s launch as the Cavaliers were in New York to face the Knicks the following day, surrounding Irving has he sat on stage with legends of the game.
“As a kid, imagining that I’d be in the Nike family with my own shoe was something that seemed almost unattainable,” said Irving. “Now that I’ve received the Kyrie 1, I’m honored to represent Nike and its next generation of players.”
Forget the Irving-related details for a second. The shoe was the first of it’s kind to have a high-traction sole that wrapped around the entire forefoot, providing on-floor grip at ridiculous angles. Made almost entirely of Hyperfuse, the shoe weighed less than a Tallboy, and had the Zoom Air cushioning in the forefoot rather than the heel. It was made for guards, or if we wanted to get a little more general, you and me. Adding in the Kyrie elements like his late mother’s name and his updated “KI” logo, and it’s no surprise that the sneaker was an absolute hit. From the jump, Irving’s shoes flew off of shelves. The $110 price point helped, but the vast array of looks and narratives certainly aided in making the Kyrie 1 one of the more popular sneakers in what was arguably one of the more rampant years for sneakers in quite some time.
With the Kyrie 2 set to release early next week, and NIKEiD already having the shoe available for customization, we thought it would be wise to take a look back at the two-time All-Star’s signature debut, and provide the top 10 general release colorways of the 2015 calendar year.1
10) “Deceptive Red”
Take a look at the launch propaganda and Irving is likely to be holding this very shoe. Revealed alongside the “Dream” colorway, this was the more subtle, safer route to take for the early adopters of the Kyrie 1. With Kanye West’s Red October Yeezy’s leading a shoe-wide revolution of red-based uppers, the Kyrie 1 fell perfectly in the mix, adding black accents along the shark-toothed midsole and the pop of blue on the tongue. Potentially one of the more underrated colorways to be released, this one is undoubtedly a scheme that will stand the test of time as additional Irving sneakers are released well beyond 2016.
9) “Wolf Grey”
If not for the dangerous white sole (a tough wear, especially in Cleveland), this sneaker may have been a little higher on the list. A mid-summer release, this sneaker looks great with jeans, shorts or joggers (as pictured above). The absolute safest of colorways, the Wolf Grey edition of the shoe was a perfect release for those who yearn to wear sneakers but not look like there’s a circus emanating from their feet. The shoe is basic enough to be worn as is, or a solid base in the event one wishes to swap out the laces and get a little crazy.
Another white sole, the allegedly limited “Rise” colorway did make its way from China over to the states. Featuring a designed sock liner, this was one of the more slept on colorways thanks to its offseason release and the fact that Irving had just suffered a devastating knee injury just a few weeks earlier. The Tour Yellow accents are a great contrast to the chain-link-like pattern on the upper. While it’s not in the picture, the right shoe features a special sun-like logo design on the tongue, made specifically for the overseas tour. And for those who didn’t really dig the shark-tooth patterned mid-sole, the all-white look may have been for you.
There are just a handful of games where NBA players are allowed to break the mold on what colors they can wear, and Easter Sunday happens to be one of them. The first Kyrie 1 to really deviate from the norm, this all-pastel colorway was loathed by some, but loved by many. An especially big hit with the 12-18 demographic and female NBA fans, the Berry upper is contrasted with lesser-worn colors like Hot Lava. While the black and silver accents balance things out, this sneaker was one that you won’t see on many middle-aged fans, but one that was easily one of the more fun releases of Irving’s first signature run.
6) “Home” (Infrared)
A bit biased here given my affinity for Infrared Jordan VIs, but the timing of this release (late April) made this my go-to sneaker for the summer. The crisp white upper is contrasted perfectly with the Infrared accents. That the Wolf Grey soles and black swoosh also provide a bit of a base make this one all the better. That the release was titled “Home” is still a big confusing as none of the colors featured can be found in a Cleveland Cavaliers marketing book, the fact that this was one of the cleaner releases of the year make this one perfect for any daily rotation.
Releasing alongside the big boys, Irving’s July 4-inspired “USA” colorway was the first to elicit a viral reaction from the social media crowd thanks to the stars and stripes underlay that was shrouded in a backyard bar-b-que-ready color called “Soar.” Sure, Irving was born in Australia, but one look at a Foot Locker on this weekend in July, and you would have seen kids largely ignoring the Big Three and scooping up the Kyrie 1 with a pair of matching socks to boot. That Irving was MVP of the International games a year earlier likely didn’t hurt his standing with fans. Nothing says July 4 like fireworks, Bud Light and these patriotic pieces of art.
4) “Black History Month”
Mama, he made it. While Irving would not get a “Christmas” release to roll alongside the big boys in 2015, he did get blessed with a Black History Month (or “BHM”) colorway for the month of February. Launching alongside a handful of Jordans in addition to James, Bryant and Durant, this was the first Kyrie 1 to break the $110 price point, given a special addition tag of $130. It was also the first Kyrie 1 to feature a mutli-color or patterned heel plate to go with the speckled sole. It was this release that also set the tone for the line, proving that if you wanted to pick up a pair, you better get them on release day because these saw very little in the way of shelf time.
The one that started it all. While it was the “Deceptive Red” that was featured in all of the promotional work Nike put out in advance of the shoe’s release, it was this colorway that was the first to hit shelves. A part of a unique fan experience at The Q, Cavalier fans in attendance one night last winter were given the chance to take these home before they were to released to the masses. Many passed on the opportunity, but a good amount of people took advantage and are all the better for it as this colorway—complete with a design-based sock liner that features a host of Irving-based details—can now only be had on eBay, and it’ll cost you twice retail for a pair that’s already been worn. If any of the Kyrie 1s could be classified as a collectors item, these are them.
Just the second Kyrie 1 to break the $110 price point, this beautiful sneaker was the first to pair the impeccable look of the Wolf Grey with the multi-color, two-tone fade of the purple translucent sole. Worn during February’s All-Star game, this sneaker moved off shelves with lighting speed. While Nike attempted to pin this with a New York Subway narrative, those who swooped in and gobbled up these bad boys did so because of the incredibly clean look and the details that deviate just a tad from the standard Kyrie 1—the sole is joined by the patterned tongue and the numeral “2” on the heel is a tad different. If there are two Kyrie 1s I wish I had picked up, this is one of them. The other…
1) “Opening Night” (“Double Nickel”)
Hands down, the best story of Kyrie Irving’s 2014-15 season involved the night he stepped up in LeBron James’ absence and dropped 55 points (and a game-winning three-pointer) on the Portland Trailblazers. As gaudy as some of the Kyrie 1s were in 2015, the minimalist, monochromatic look of the “Double Nickel” 1s was unequivocally perfect. The Wolf Grey base with the Team Red Swoosh was just the start. These had the “In Kyrie We Trust” Nickels on the tongues and the numeral 2 that graces the back is inverted to make a side-by-side 55. There’s a reason that this specific shoe made Complex’s top sneakers of 2015: The look coupled with the performance at this price point was unmatched. Jordan’s “Double Nickels” didn’t arrive until the shoe’s tenth installment; Irving’s was the last to arrive of his first, lasting just 40 minutes on Nike.com. The entire shoe—from meaning to appearance—is so clean that almost makes you forget about the fact that Irving would top that 55-point mark just two months later against the Spurs. Almost.