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Woj/Shelburne: Nike pulling back from Kyrie Irving commitments

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Sacramento Kings Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

More bad news for Kyrie Irving.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne report that Nike, which annually pays Irving about $11 million a year, is pulling back from their commitment to his signature line of shoes, one of the brand’s most popular. The two ESPN reporters suggest that “uncertainties surrounding his NBA future” led to the decision.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has long had one of Nike’s most popular and profitable signature basketball shoes, but uncertainties surrounding his NBA future have left the company unlikely to extend him to a similar signature deal beyond the 2022-23 season, sources told ESPN.

Irving has a new edition of his shoe set to debut in the fall, but that is expected to be the final year of a lucrative signature series that he has had with Nike since 2014, sources said.

Nike represents an overwhelming proportion of Irving’s off-court earnings. Per Sportico rankings of pro athletes income, published Thursday, Irving will make $13 million in endorsement income this year.

Woj and Shelburne pointed out that Irving’s partnership with Nike is not ending but their commitment to his line is lessening and thus, his income will presumably drop as well.

Because of Irving’s popularity, it is expected Nike will still offer some product associated with him in the future, such as retro shoes from previous collections, sources said. But as discussions between Nike and Irving about his endorsement future have commenced recently, it has become apparent his relationship with the company will change — perhaps dramatically so.

Nike did not deny the ESPN report when contacted Thursday.

“We don’t comment on contracts or rumors or speculation. Kyrie remains a Nike athlete,” a spokesperson told ESPN.

Of course, the news could be a bargaining chip in negotiations between the superstar and sneaker company. The relationship between Irving and the Oregon-based company have also been troubled. In July of last year, Irving lashed out on social media about the design of the Nike Kyrie 8 edition of his shoe.

“I have nothing to do with the design or marketing of the upcoming #Kyrie8, IMO these are trash!” Irving wrote on Instagram. “I have absolutely nothing to do with them! Nike plans to release it without my okay regardless of what I say, so I apologize in advance to all of my sneaker heads and true supporters of the #KAI11 brand.”

He later tempered those remarks and the sneaker was marketed with his endorsement.

The news comes after two days where the 30-year-old has faced rising criticism. On Wednesday, Sean Marks suggested that his future with Brooklyn will depend on his availability to the team, a clear reference to how many games he’s missed over last two seasons. Then, Thursday, Amar’e Stoudemire went on ESPN and suggested that his vaccine-related absences “definitely hurt us” and suggested that the only way for the Nets to be certain of his commitment is to put language in his contract demanding it.

Irving has a $37 million player option with the Nets for the 2022-23 season and the two sides can extend him for four years beyond that for a total of $248 million. He lost an estimated $14.5 million in salary this past season as a result of his refusal to get vaccinated.