Nike may soon be ending its partnership with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. According to ESPN, uncertainties surrounding the point guard’s professional playing career have left Nike to think about severing ties with him. Irving — whose alleged mood swings and unvaccinated status have already caused controversy — currently holds a signature deal with the brand for the 2022-23 season. Any partnership beyond that is unlikely, sources told ESPN.
Irving has had a lucrative signature sneaker series with Nike since 2014, and recently received his own version of the brand’s popular Dunk sneaker. The basketball player also has a new edition of his namesake shoe set to release in the fall, but the pair is expected to be one of, if not the final sneaker he debuts with Nike, ESPN’s source said. Nike neither denied nor confirmed its future relationship with Irving: “We don't comment on contracts or rumors or speculation. Kyrie remains a Nike athlete,” a Nike spokesperson told ESPN.
A rocky relationship — As of now, Irving holds a $37 million player option with the Nets for the 2022-23 season, although no long-term contract has been negotiated between the two. For much of the past season, little game time has been appointed to the player too, as New York City mandates required athletes to be vaccinated against COVID. Though he remains unvaccinated, Irving has been allowed to play part-time in away games, and recently lifted mandates allowed him to play during the final games of the season including playoffs.
The point guard’s vaccination status caused controversy for Nike when the brand fired employees who had not received their vaccine (and did not show proof of a medical or religious exemption). Irving’s health choices became the least of the brand’s worries in July, however, when the player called his own sneakers “trash,” alleging that he had no input on their design. Days later, Kyrie issued a statement taking back what he had said, although his public disgust for his namesake sneakers undoubtedly strained his partnership with Nike.
Because of Irving's popularity, Nike is expected to still offer products associated with him in the future, sources told ESPN, insinuating the brand will retro Kyrie shoes from previous collections. As of now, however, the basketball player may soon find himself without a lucrative sponsor — or team, at that.