Nike has officially unveiled Kyrie’s 4th signature Shoe, the Nike Kyrie 4. Designed by Benjamin Nethongkome, the Nike KYRIE 4 will make its debut beginning with the Confetty colorway (12/16) and the much more subtle Black and White pair (12/20).
Benjamin Nethongkome and Kyrie met back on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, during a meeting that finalized release plans for the Kyrie 3. During that very same meeting, Benjamin Nethongkome was announced as the future lead for the line, which was without a doubt a major career step for Ben. Now that he was in charge of the Kyrie line, it was time to get to work.
“The major difference between my earlier work and this is that I was just another member of the design team and now I am blazing the trail,” he says. “That pressure was major. Even though we have a team of people behind us, that gave me the most butterflies.”
Irving has very unique and specific performance demands. For Nethongkome, these are all good design challenges. Kyrie requires constant support and dynamic traction. “I need to identify a spot and get in and out of it without loosing my balance,” says Irving. “Being able to pivot off my spot and have balance in the shoe, regardless of where my foot hits the court, is essential.”
Nethongkome’s ideas for the KYRIE 4, which are based on Irving’s desire to improve underfoot cushioning (solved with the application of Cushlon midsole Zoom Air heel unit) while simultaneously making him quicker on the corner, are most overtly realized in the outsole’s zig-zag flex grove. Effectively decoupling the sole, this feature enhances traction and response from side to side, forming more seamless transitions. Once again, the outsole wraps up and around the foot, this time forming a fanged sidewall that emphasizes that the shoe was built for speed.
“As we continue to grow a working relationship, we progress what we believe a shoe for this culture should look like and be like,” says Irving. The athlete pauses to define “the culture” too: “When you are part of evolution, when you say it is for the culture it means you are bringing a new flair. Bringing something new that is unmatched. Bringing that freedom to create against how I play, you create a new silhouette — something that can withstand for ages and stands alone.”
Nethongkome agrees and reminds that the KYRIE 4’s “visual expression is lead by the solution.”
Secondarily, the material choices and blocking are influenced by Irving’s interest in vintage Nike and Jordan silhouettes — a passion shared with Nethongkome.
In those vintage basketball shoes, Irving sees “the authenticity of a performance shoe — something that hits all the marks as a basketball shoe — matched with really good looks.”
The KYRIE 4’s blocking follows suit. The forefoot is built of a zonally engineered mesh, an upgrade from previous KYRIE silhouettes and one that provides both containment and a softer feel. The transition to the heel introduces more classic materials — many versions of the KYRIE 4 will carry a suede or leather — which not only feel great but offer opportunity against a new challenge: how people watch the game today.
Fully aware that the classics of the past were feted over a full 48 minutes and memorialized in static posters, while today’s icons are cemented in 15-second mobile video clips, Irving acknowledges that shoes now need to “be both more innovative and more creative.”
He and Nethongkome honor what they call “the speed of eye test,” always trying to ensure that there is an “instant recall.”
“We want specific things that stand out and spark a memory and draw people back. They don’t need to want the shoe right then and there, but they need an initial spark in 30 seconds,” Irving explains. “The blocking is one of the things we discussed, to isolate parts of the shoe and bring them to life. That’s something I want within the shoe and it extends the details of this masterpiece.”
Look for the Nike Kyrie 4 Black/White to release on December 20th at select Nike Basketball retailers and Nike.com. The retail price tag is set at $120 USD.
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