Kyrie Irving faces a long summer, and his decisions could define the rest of his career. He has to answer issues about availability and give the commitment to play in games or else risk a lot of money.
Nike set to part ways with Irving
Not all players get to have signature shoes. Those who have it mean they have proven they are marketable enough for the fans to buy their shoes and merchandise. Kyrie Irving is a proven champion with skills that are arguably one of the best in his generation. But skills and star appeal don't matter if he doesn't play. And if things don't change next season, meaning his vaccination status remains unchanged, one of his major sponsors is set to sever ties with him.
Irving and Nike collaborated in 2014 to release his shoes. That deal is set to end, and Nike is not keen on extending the contract beyond the 2022-23 season. The apparel makers need to make sure their ambassador promotes the shoes on the court and will be a good citizen off it. If Irving still refuses to take the COVID vaccine and the vaccination mandates of some NBA cities remain to stand, the Brooklyn Nets point guard will have no choice but to sit out games.
The relationship with Nike appeared turbulent as of late, and in 2021, the one-time champ lambasted Nike for the design of the leaked Kyrie 8 edition, saying he had nothing to do with its design or marketing.
If Irving is not renewed, there will be no shortage of suitors to create his signature shoes. But the question, as long as it's still not answered, will continue to be a concern: how much will he play next season?
Irving has the power to chart his future
His decision whether or not to take the vaccine will affect if Nike or the Nets extend his deals with them. As owner Sean Marks claimed, he and Irving have to talk, and he needs to know his commitment and availability before offering a multi-million contract extension.
There's a chance Ky would suit up for another team wearing another brand for his shoes. And if his recent tweets are to be believed, there's a chance he would change agency also.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka is starting her player agency called EVOLVE. Ky sent a message of interest in joining Osaka's agency. It may be just a joke for the two Nike athletes, but Osaka has also skipped games due to mental health issues. It's a different matter compared to Ky's situation, but both believe in prioritizing their well-being above everything else.
The ball is now on Irving's side of the court. He has the power to chart his future. Here's to hoping that whatever he decides to do next year will be the best for him and his family.