Kyrie Irving helped make Cleveland, Ohio the capital of the sneaker universe last Friday. During a 95-91 victory over the visiting Brooklyn Nets, Irving—along with Nike Basketball—signaled the launch of the Nike Kyrie 1 with a unique pre-release at Quicken Loans Arena. Cavaliers fans in attendance were provided an opportunity to not only purchase Irving’s signature Nike shoe, but also leave the game wearing them.
The first run of the Nike Kyrie 1 is available starting today at Nike.com and select retailers, and multiple colorways will be released throughout 2015. Irving, who became just the 20th Nike basketball athlete to launch a signature shoe, described what it meant for him to have Cleveland fans share in the experience.
“It’s truly a dream come true,” Irving—this month’s cover subject—told SLAM. “I can’t necessarily conjure words. One thing after the other in terms of goal setting, for me, this year has been crazy. But for everyone here to get my shoe first, I made it definitely a statement for Cavs fans to get them first.”
Irving first arrived in Cleveland by way of the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 as a 19-year-old point guard from Duke University. His electric handle and deft shooting quickly made him a fan favorite during his rookie season. Irving went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, before becoming a two-time All-Star, All-Star game MVP and MVP of Team USA this past summer. For his career thus far in the League, Irving’s averaged 20.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds as a member of the Cavs.
Cleveland Cavaliers CMO Tracy Marek discussed why it was important for the organization to think outside the box and collaborate with Nike for the Kyrie 1 pre-release. The team also featured Kyrie 1 video content on their mobile app and website, while helping coordinate a command center and warehouse that Nike used inside the arena during the game.
“The Cavaliers and Nike share the goal of providing a strong and highly engaging experience for basketball fans,” Marek said Friday. “When the Nike Kyrie 1 shoe was announced, we all knew it was a great opportunity to provide Cavaliers fans with the very first chance to pick up their very own pair in an exclusive pre-sale at a Cavs game. Nike has a fantastic approach with our fans and loves to do bold and creative things here in Cleveland. We look forward to many more memorable moments here at The Q.”
Fans were welcomed into The Q on Friday with Irving posters, along with other giveaways and prizes. For the first time, Nike also created an interactive digital retail wall inside an NBA concourse. Those who purchased a pair of the Irving’s at the digital display were given the option of picking their shoes up as they left the game, having them delivered to their home within 24 hours, or delivered directly to their seat during the game.
Jeff Marous of Willoughby, Ohio, a longtime fan of the Cavaliers and Irving—who became the first person to purchase a pair of the Kyrie 1s at the game—chose the latter option. His special delivery from Nike was broadcasted throughout the arena on the jumbotron, and we caught up with Marous shortly after to discuss the purchase.
— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) December 20, 2014
“The digital wall was great, and the purchase process was very simple and easy,” Jeff Marous said. “For Nike and Kyrie to do something like this in Cleveland—for the Cavs fans who’ve supported him since he got here—it really meant a lot. I was already planning to go out and buy a pair, but now I don’t have to. And watching Kyrie help Cleveland beat Brooklyn at the same time, that made for a night to remember.”
The fan experience Marous described was precisely what Irving and Nike had hoped for when plans for the Cleveland pre-release were initially discussed. The Cavs All-Star talked about what that meant for him, to be able to celebrate the release of his new shoe with his biggest fans and supporters.
“I’m just glad because Cleveland is the city that gave me my opportunity,” Irving said. “The fans have been sticking with me for four years. And I’ve been sticking with them. That’s the only thing that matters. So for them to get my shoe first, that means the world to me. And I hope everyone goes out and gets it.”
For more details on the Nike Kyrie 1, click here. And to cop your pair, head over to Nike.com.
Brendan Bowers is an NBA writer who covers the Cavaliers and the NBA in Cleveland for SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @BowersCLE. Images via Getty.