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As Kyrie Irving unveils Nike Kyrie 6, The Undefeated gives insight on his design process

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New Orleans Pelicans v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The arrival of the Nike Kyrie 6 is still two weeks away, but the Nets guard unveiled it during Brooklyn’s win over New Orleans Monday night. He chose the “Heal the World” version which with its multi-colored scheme, including a third eye motif, gathered some attention on the court and on the YES broadcast as well. It and others in the line have a return-to- New York theme.

And just to make sure you didn’t miss that point, Nike took out this ad ... on 8th Avenue and 34th street...

Meanwhile, The Undefeated talked to the Nike shoe designer who worked with Kyrie Irving on the process that led to the product. It started more than two years ago in Seattle where Irving was working out in the summer of 2017. It was a collaborative effort, said Ben Nethongkome.

“We sat down and invested hours in designing the shoe together,” Nethongkome recently recalled at the Brooklyn Nets HSS Training Center. “Really just busting out pen and paper and pencils and tapes and product. That was really refreshing to see an athlete get down and dirty with you. … Kyrie’s a creative, on the court and even in design sessions. He’s not a guy who’s gonna sit in the back of the room and observe from afar. He’s really in the nitty-gritty.”

The Nike Kyrie 6, said Nethongkome, is the shoe that most shows Irving’s involvement in the process.

“What separates my Kyrie 6 from the rest of my line is really just the creative design behind it,” Irving told Aaron Dodson of The Undefeated. “I’ve had a huge, huge hand in a lot of designing processes before. But this is the one where I really, really started from being in a hotel room, having a bunch of ideas and boards, and trying to combine a bunch of my favorite shoes and favorite ideas into one.”

In fact, reports Dodson, Irving is one of just six basketball players in the history of Nike Basketball — joining an elite company of Charles Barkley, Sheryl Swoopes, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and of course, teammate Kevin Durant — to receive six or more signature sneakers during his/her playing career, not after.

“My vision was just making sure we have a high-performance basketball shoe on court that doesn’t feel lesser than the previous models,” Nethongkome said. “Coming to the table, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s just talk it through. What do you want, Kyrie?’ ”

What he wanted was to start from scratch, Nethongkome said, looking at everything from Michael Jordan’s iconic line of signature Air Jordan basketball shoes to Kanye West’s Nike Air Yeezy line.

“This one was just a complete blank canvas,” Irving said. “Let’s start from ground zero and let’s build this into a huge, huge art piece that we can be proud of,” said Irving.

One key design element that struck Irving as important was that of the George Washington Bridge between where he grew up and where he would play. The GWB is a landmark that holds a special place in Irving’s heart.

“So many memories crossing the George Washington,” Irving said. “Going to my aunt’s house, or going to the Bronx. Being with my dad all day. Watching him play basketball. Really learning from him. Being in different boroughs. Crossing that bridge and coming back home to Jersey. Knowing what the difference in smell is. Know what the feel is. The air is different in Jersey and New York.”

“He’s voiced to me that the Kyrie 6 is one of his most favorite Kyries up to date,” Nethongkome said. “So if there’s just that emotional benefit from that alone, I feel like his game is gonna go even further.”

What does Irving expect from himself on the court in his latest sneaker, The Undefeated asked?

“Just myself, man,” Irving said. “Being exactly who I’m supposed to be … being that guy that leads his team.”