It was that time of the year again! The NBA hosted its annual Global Game in London in cooperation with Nike. The Boston Celtics and their new superstar Kyrie Irving against the Philadelphia 76ers with their up-and-coming stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, that promised to be a good one. Tickets were hard to get… But luckily, Nike did us a huge favor and sent us over! So, here we were at the Airport, waiting for our flight to the UK, curious for what the upcoming days would have in store for us…
Touchdown in London. Uber to the Hotel, up to the room, get the equipment ready and off to our first big highlight of the trip… a Kyrie 4 Q&A with the man himself, Kyrie Irving! Damn, were we excited! The campaign for the Nike Kyrie 4 is all about “finding your groove“, so it was only right that the Q&A took place in London’s famous Royal Festival Hall. What a setting!
First up was Ben Nethongkome (check his Instagram @benslamin, he is amazing!), lead designer of the Kyrie 4. Ben took us through the process of designing the Kyries and the inspiration behind the shoes. When it comes to the performance aspect, Kyrie’s game, his quickness, changes of direction and speed were the main influences that had to be considered on the tech side of things. Irving’s extreme directional changes require dynamic traction in every possible angle, as he banks in the most absurd, contorted foot angles against the court. Therefore, Nethongkome laid the main focus on banking, which resulted in the Kyrie 4 outsole wrapping around the forefoot to supply unlimited traction.
The sole is the key part of the Kyrie 4. Not only does Kyrie Irving require superior traction, but also a cushioning system that gives him both comfort and court-feel while simultaneously making him quicker on the corner. Ben Nethongkome’s solution for that? A zig-zag style decoupled outsole which enhances traction and response from side to side. A feature that combines next level footwear technology and eye-popping style. The style of the Kyrie 4 was inspired by Kyrie’s interest in classic Nike and Jordan basketball shoes. As Nethongkome pointed out, Kyrie has always been fascinated with the craftsmanship, materials and vibrant colorways of iconic basketball silhouettes. Thus, Nethongkome opted for a mix of suede on the heel and mesh in the forefoot area and the first colorways have featured some more than bold iterations, especially the beloved ‘Confetti‘ edition.
The highlight of Ben’s interview was of course the unveiling of the special London PE of the Kyrie 4 that Irving would wear in the NBA Global Game. Inspired by the London Philharmonics and Kyrie’s love for music, the exclusive sneaker is clad in light blue with hints of yellow and features elements of classical symphonic orchestras, portrayed with a f-hole pattern around the heel. We were not allowed to take pictures of this moment unfortunately… But here is an official Nike pic!
Exit Ben, enter Kyrie. The Celtics’ superstar point guard walks onto the stage. The audience (a total of about 50 members of the media, including us) applauds. Here he is. Let’s start the show! The host starts with the obligatory questions about traveling the globe as a basketball player and ambassador for Nike and how it feels being in London etc. Kyrie does not seem too motivated at first, rather tight-lipped sometimes. I mean he’s obviously here for a basketball game, a real game, a regular season game of the NBA. So that’s not too surprising… However, when the questions turned to music, Kyrie seemed to have found his groove! It was very interesting to see how the mind of an NBA superstar works. The host seemed to have brought Kyrie out of his shell within a couple of seconds.
From now on, the Q&A had a whole new flow, Kyrie was sharing his thoughts. As a matter of fact he sometimes dug so deep into his mind, that he answered with his eyes closed. He turned his attention to the spectacular setting. The Royal Festival Hall in London, a venue with a deep history of performances by the world’s biggest stars. For someone with as deep a connection to music as Kyrie Irving, even though he is a global star, this setting was unreal. And he achieved all of these privileges, traveling the globe, having events at the Royal Festival Hall, and so forth, by “putting a ball through a hoop” as he acknowledged several times. He even went as far as to say, “You see, it’s crazy, I can help people, I can change people’s lives, I travel the world, just because I’m really good at putting a ball through a hoop.” This realization spoke volumes about his character. It’s not often that a sports superstar gives a statement as humble as this.
He went on to compare basketball to music, as you need several components, several bits and pieces to create one coherent work. In Kyrie’s eyes, being the leader of a basketball team can be compared to conducting an orchestra. You are the man in charge, you dictate the tempo, you set the tone. Wait a minute… That sounds familiar! Back in October, when we met Kobe Bryant in Paris, the Black Mamba used exactly the same comparison, leading a team is like conducting an orchestra. And on top of that, Kobe chose Kyrie as one the players in today’s NBA that remind him of himself, that have that Mamba Mentality in them. I guess he was right! That moment on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall in London with his eyes closed, was a moment of Mamba Mentality that Kyrie Irving shared with us. Bravo!
Next up, it was our turn! We could meet Kyrie 1-on-1… at least we thought so. Instead of a full fledged interview though, we unfortunately only had 45 seconds with him. So we made the best of it by letting him sign a pair of Kyrie 4s we brought to London with us. But not any pair, we brought the Kyrie 4 ‘Confetti‘! And now we got ourselves a real treasure. Plus we had the chance to get some really nice portrait shots of him, but see for yourselves below. A quick handshake, and that was it. Check. An exciting first day in London came to an end.
Day 2, it’s Game Time! But before we got to watch the big game, it was our turn to lace up those Kyrie 4s and put them to the test in a Kyrie inspired practice session. Quick cuts, crossover dribbles and finessed finishes around the basket were on the menu. Stay tuned for an in-depth weartest of the Nike Kyrie 4! (It’s a good shoe that’s for sure!)
After a day full of basketball and Hip Hop (we made our very own London mixtape), we were ready for the main event, an official NBA game between the Celtics and the Sixers. The excitement rose. We pulled up to The O2, a huge arena with a maximum capacity of 20,000 people. You know that moment when you enter a sports venue for the first time? Magical. It just gives you goosebumps. When we took our seats, the first thing that caught our eyes was the number of green shirts in the arena. You could tell at first sight that the majority of spectators were in favor of the Boston Celtics. And on paper, the Celtics were the clear favorite. Number 1 in the East versus the number 8 seed. This was promising to be a good one.
The place was packed. Football stars all over the place. Courtside looked like a who is who of the Premier League. From German International Ilkay Gündogan, Hector Bellerin or Atlético’s Griezmann to legends like Thierry Henry and Sir Alex Ferguson, the star power was immense. As tip-off was nearing, Kyrie and Joel Embiid took to mid-court to welcome everybody to the game and thank the fans for their support and of course Embiid ended his speech with his famous “Trust the Process!” phrase.
Tip-off! The Sixers stormed out of the gates like raging bulls and their sharpshooter JJ Redick was heating up in the blink of an eye to score 12 points in the first 4 minutes. Microwave! Boston on the other hand seemed out of sync and their conductor Kyrie Irving couldn’t quite tune things out in the first quarter. They were trailing all the way. The second quarter started even better than the first for Philly. Led by their 7-foot rookie point guard Ben Simmons they continued to run the Celtics out the gym and built a 22-point lead at one point. Curtains up for Daniel Theis! With Philadelphia sitting on a 54-33 lead at the end of the second quarter, the Celtics pushed the ball up the court, Kyrie threaded the needle to Theis and the rookie out of Germany rose up to finish a nasty and-1 dunk over Jarryd Bayless. BANG! This monster jam served as the spark plug for the Celtics. All of a sudden, they were locked in defensively and they seemed to have found their groove. 15-3 run to end the half, 57-48 Sixers.
The second half continued like the first ended. It was Boston all the way. Embiid and Simmons could not stop the slide. Meanwhile, the Celtics were absolutely in rhythm and manhandled the Sixers 37-22 in the third quarter. It was no contest in the second half. Tatum, Morris and Brown all caught fire at the same time and Boston took the spirit out of the young Sixers. The fourth quarter didn’t make any difference. Final score 114-103 Celtics. Even though it was not the best game of the season, it definitely was an amazing experience seeing these stars play live in the flesh. Kyrie is so quick and agile, his dribbling ability is completely surreal. Embiid is huge, he must be the most physical center since Shaq, a man among boys. And Ben Simmons… man, a 7-foot point guard who moves like he is 6’5″. If he figures out how to shoot the basketball, his combination of body, talent and basketball IQ will make him the best player in the league one day. He is the future.
What a day! It’s a wrap. But one more thing… After the show, it’s the after party! KICKZ out.