Kyrie 7 | $130 | Nike
Sport is a game of inches. Fractions of a second, the slightest differentiation in weight, having gotten in just one more training session than your opponent can be the difference between success and failure. So when Ben Nethongkome, the Nike designer behind NBA superstar Kyrie Irving’s last three signature sneakers, says that cutting 1.7 ounces off the weight of Irving’s new shoe, the Kyrie 7, is a big deal, trust him. It may not sound like much but it’s all the difference in the world for an athlete as elite as Irving.
The 7 is, to date, the lightest Kyrie yet, but that isn’t where its innovation ends. Irving understands what few athletes with signature sneakers seem to these days: that performance capabilities are only part of what makes a signature shoe great. Where his peers treat them as tools, Irving utilizes them as an extension of himself, of his brand, and of his connection to his fans—and on top of that, they aren’t exactly lacking in the on-court department.
Usually, when reviewing a performance shoe, the first thing I’d want to talk through are the specs and how it feels on-court, but with Kyrie, the big draw is and has always been aesthetics. The shoe is launching in a classic black and white colorway that will look familiar to Nike hoops fans (most new silhouettes launch with at least one similar look) and in a lovely blue upper with peach soles called the “Sisterhood” colorway. But the cream of the crop comes in the Pre-Heat collection, dropping in limited quantities via the SNKRS app.
The Pre-Heat collection includes five colorways, each representing a different facet of Kyrie’s on and off-court passions, the things that fuel the creativity he brings to the court (like I said, he gets that these shoes aren’t just shoes but vehicles for self-expression and connecting with his fanbase). The teal ‘Special FX’ is a tribute to the movies that Kyrie grew up loving while the red/multicolor ‘Icons of Sport’ is an homage to teams and athletes connected to Irving’s childhood and career at large (a splotch of yellow and purple on the sole serves as a shout-out to the late great Kobe Bryant, one of the biggest influences on Irving as a player). The collection continues with the ‘Soundwave,’ a black, red, and orange getup serving as a nod to Irving’s favorite music (he specifically says Travis Scott was a major influence on this one) and the ‘Expressions,’ which uses warm pastels to pay homage to painters and artists whose work he loves. It’s rounded out with the ‘Creator’ colorway, which combines all four Pre-Heat colorways into one - all of Kyrie’s influences in one colorway.
All in all, it’s a pretty incredible ratio of hits to misses for a first collection. The only real dud (in this humble sneaker writer’s opinion) is the ‘Icons of Sport’ while the ‘Special FX’ stands out as one of the better Kyrie colorways of all time (and that’s saying something as there have been some real heaters over the years). The catch? These sneakers are not only dropping in a unique Mystery Box format (you don’t get to choose which one you get, Nike instead leaving it up to the luck of the draw when you order a pair).
How does the shoe feel on foot? Well, for starters, much better than the 6. The Kyrie 6 became somewhat notorious for its stiffness and generally narrow fit. Kyries are always on the snug side (always go half a size up with any sneaker in his line if you’re looking for a good fit) but the 6 had very little give and honestly felt pretty restrictive on foot (the midfoot strap was a nice touch but only exacerbated the issue. The stiff fibers that made up the shoe’s upper also made for a shoe that took a LOT of time on the court to break in.
The 7 has a significantly more breathable and flexible upper without sacrificing the support the line has been built on for so long. It may take a wear or two before they feel like a great everyday shoe but they’re great for the court pretty much straight out of the box. They’re shockingly lightweight and breathable without sacrificing the support and stability the Kyrie line has been known for.
Kyrie’s shoes have always been designed to help with sharp turns, cuts, and pivots, and the 7 has a killer touch to assist in this. The sole of the shoe at first doesn’t look like it has much intention behind it. It’s made up of a ton of squiggly, jagged lines arranged in such a way you might suspect they’re random, but you’d be dead wrong. The sole’s schematics have been designed using loads of in-game data to determine the perfect traction patterns, giving you total control on the court even in fast, heated moves. The result is some pretty astonishing grip, even on the hardest of turns
The shoe also features plenty of cushioning in the heel as well as the forefoot, anchored in an Air Zoom Turbo unit. Contoured for maximum responsiveness, it’s the perfect finishing touch.
It’s hard to point to a signature athlete who’s doing sneakers better than Kyrie these days. The 7 is the perfect step forward for the hoops superstar, one that brings new innovation to his line without sacrificing the tech or creativity that made it so rad to begin with. You can pick up the Pre-Heat collection on November 11 while the rest go on sale the 14th.