Kyrie Irving has been officially benched by Nike. As of Monday, the Brooklyn Nets star is no longer affiliated with the major sports giant. The decision came just a month after the athlete promoted a controversial documentary on social media. Here's what you missed.
The athlete signed with Nike in 2014, becoming the 20th NBA player in the league to create his own signature sneaker. Irving's annual signature shoe line and lower-priced Kyrie Low and Kyrie Flytrap models became Nike's second most current-player sought-after shoe in the franchise, after LeBron James' signature series. Since the release of the Kyrie 1, the yearly Kyrie model has become one of the most worn shoes across the league, with about 68% of the NBA wearing Nike sneakers when they play. According to KixStats.com, 164 players have worn the Kyrie 7 while playing on the court. So, with the major success of his sneakers, his relationship with Nike generated around $11 million in earnings every year for him - but now the point guard is officially a sneaker-free agent.
The shoe giant initially suspended its partnership with Irving last month after scrapping the release of the highly anticipated Kyrie 8 sneakers, concluding their contract 11 months earlier than their contract states. "Kyrie is no longer a Nike athlete," a Nike spokesperson told ESPN, confirming the news he will no longer be working alongside the footwear company. However, according to Irving's agent, Shetellia Riley Irving, the decision was mutual, and they "wish Nike the best in their future endeavors."
In November, the Brooklyn Nets suspended Irving from the team without pay, and after a formal apology and eight missed games, Kyrie was reinstated onto the Nets roster. A few days later, Nike co-founder Phil Knight told CNBC in an interview that their relationship with the basketball star was coming to a close. "Kyrie stepped over the line. It's kind of that simple," he said. "He made some statements that we just can't abide by, and that's why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that." Following the announcement, Irving took to Twitter to post a GIF reading, "There's nothing more priceless than being free," referring to the termination of his Nike contract. The saga continues... Stay tuned.