After initially suspending its partnership withand scrapping the release of his upcoming Kyrie 8 signature shoe last month, Nike confirmed Monday that it has fully cut ties with the point guard.
“Kyrie is no longer a Nike athlete,” a Nike company spokesperson told ESPN.
Irving’s signature endorsement agreement with the company was set to expire on October 1, 2023. The deal was abruptly suspended eleven months before expiring after Irving posted a link on social media to a book and movie containing antisemitic messaging.
“Kyrie stepped over the line. It’s kind of that simple,” Phil Knight told CNBC on November 10. “He made some statements that we just can’t abide by, and that’s why we ended the relationship. I was fine with that.”
Knight’s comments three weeks ago were understood throughout the industry to signal a confirmation that the partnership was indeed fully terminated ahead of its expiration.
“We have mutually decided to part ways and wish Nike the best in their future endeavors,” Irving’s agent, Shetellia Riley Irving, also told CNBC earlier Monday.
Around 68% of the NBA wears Nike sneakers in games. In each season since the launch of the Kyrie 1, the annual Kyrie model had become one of the most-worn shoes across the league. To date, 164 players had worn the Kyrie 7 in games, according to data from KixStats.com. Dozens of players often wear the lower-priced Kyrie Low model as well, with others also rotating between past year’s models.
The brand is not expected to instruct or request that current NBA players stop wearing Kyrie-branded shoes, sources told ESPN, given that it is mid-season and players have long preferred the comfort and performance of the Irving series on court.
The clarity of the contract’s termination coming now, well before its eventual 2023 expiration, means Irving is now a sneaker free agent and could sign a new endorsement deal with the brand partner of his choosing.
After signing with Nike as a rookie in 2011, Irving became just the 20th NBA player in league history to receive his own signature sneaker with the company in 2014.
Irving’s annual signature Kyrie shoe line and lower-priced Kyrie Low and Kyrie Flytrap models led to one of the industry’s best-selling total signature footwear businesses. It was Nike’s second-most lucrative current player franchise in recent years, only behind LeBron James’ signature series.
“Anyone who has [ever] spent their hard-earned money on anything I have ever released, I consider you FAMILY and we are forever connected,” Irving. “It’s time to show how powerful we are as a community.”