For those who may be tardy to the party, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported earlier this week that Nike officially parted ways with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving after being one of the most prominent signature athletes on the brand.
“Kyrie Irving is no longer a Nike athlete, Nike spokesperson says. The sides have parted ways one month after Nike suspended its relationship with the Nets star. Irving has one of the most popular signature shoes in the NBA and is now a sneaker free agent,” Charania tweeted on December 5.
For as much drama that has surrounded him, Irving is still one of the NBA’s most marketable athletes. Now an official sneaker free agent, expect him to have a lot of suitors. According to Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports, Puma could have interest in adding the Nets star.
“Puma fixture on shoe company’s interest in sneaker free agent Kyrie Irving: “I’d be interested in what he would be looking for or likes the freedom to do his own thing.”,” Robinson tweeted on December 8.
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Benson: Kyrie Could ‘Propel’ Puma Brand
Irving is still one of the top talents the NBA has seen, so his marketability has never been in doubt. Couple that with the fact the Nets are trending upward, having climbed up to 4th place in the Eastern Conference, and it will only make him more marketable if the Nets keep winning.
Robinson’s report is not the first time Irving has been linked to the Puma brand. In August, Pat Benson of “Sports Illustrated” said he believes Irving is a player that can “propel” up-and-coming sneaker brand Puma to the next level.
“Since re-entering the performance basketball shoe market in 2018, Puma has made all the right moves. They have assembled a cast of exciting players, headlined by one signature athlete – LaMelo Ball,” Benson wrote.
“Besides Ball, the company has a strong history with NBA legend Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier. Jay-Z is Puma’s creative director, which never hurts in a pitch meeting. If Kyrie Irving took his talents to Puma, it could propel the German company past some of its competitors.”
Irving Seemingly Confirms Nike Split
Irving’s rise to stardom on the Nike brand escalated quickly. He was drafted in June 2011, and by December 2014, he already had a signature sneaker. The Kyrie series became one of Nike’s most popular signature lines, rivaled only by his one-time Cleveland Cavaliers teammate, LeBron James. But things became ugly between the two sides in 2021 when they clashed over the design of the Kyrie 8, which caused the seven-time All-Star to lash out against the company on social media.
There was already a sense of doubt that Nike would renew Irving’s deal which expires this year. And when Kyrie tweeted out the link to an anti-Semitic film in October, which was met with negative backlash, Nike suspended him, which ultimately led to them terminating the relationship.
Irving seemed to confirm the split in the Nets’ last game against the Charlotte Hornets, as he sported a pair of the Nike Kyrie 3, with the Nike logo covered in black tape with a clear message, “I AM FREE. Thank you, God, … I am.” (H/T Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson).
It will be interesting to see which brand Irving decides to go with next.